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Full text of "Mind's Eye: A Liberal Arts Journal Fall 2002"

Fall 2002 



Mind's Eye 

A Liberal Arts Journal 
Massachusetts College of Libera! Arts 




Confession as Self-Dramatization: I Confess, Therefore I Am 

By Mccra Tarn ay a 

The Devil Dog 

Fiction by Celia Montgomery 

Poetry 

By Abbot Cutler 

Artwork 

By Greg Scheckler 

Inequities in Higher Education: The Experiences of State College 
and Little Ivy Students 

By Maynard Seider 

Radical Surgery 

Book Review by William Montgomery 



$7.50 




A Liberal Arts Journal 



FALL 2002 



Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts 



Editorial Board 

Tony Gengarelly. Managing Editor 
Robert Bencc 
Bob Bishoff 
Harold Brotzman 
Sumi Colligan 
Abbot Cutler 
Steve Green 
Bill Montgomery 
Leon Peters 
Arlene Bouras. Copy Editor 

Advisory Board 

Ja mes MacGregor B U rns, Professor o) history and political science, 
University of Maryland 
Stepben Fix, Professor of English, Williams College 
Thomas Green, Professor of law and history. University of Michigan 
Mary Huber, Carnegie Foundation scholar 
Lea Newman, Professor of English anerita. Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts 
Joseph Thompson, Director of MASS MoCA 

© 2002 The Mind's Eye 
ISSN 1098-0512 

The Mind's Eye, a journal of scholarly and creative work, is published twice 
annually by Massachusetts College ot Liberal Arts. While emphasizing articles 
o( scholarly merit. The Mind's Eye focuses on a general communication of ideas 
of interest to a liberal arts college. We welcome expository essays, including 
reviews, as well as fiction, poetry and art- Please refer to the inside back cover 
for a list of writer's guidelines. 

A yearly subscription to The Mind's Eye is S15. Send check or money order 
to The Mind's Eye. CIO Tony Gengarelly. Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, 
375 Church Street, North Adams, MA 01247, 



Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts 
375 Church Street 
North Adams, MA 01247-4100 



Mind's Eye 



PALL 2U02 



Editor's File 4 

Confession as Self-Dramatization; I Confess, 
Therefore I Am 

By Meera Tamaya 5 

Poetry 

By Abbot Cutler 22 

Artwork 

By Greg Scheckler -.. T ..-..,, I + ..4. I*. H.lHll'H Hi...... 26 



The Devil Dog 

Fiction by Celia Montgomery 29 

Inequities in Higher Education: 
The Experiences of State College 



and Little Ivy Students 

By Maynard Seider 35 

Radical Surgery 

Book Review by William Montgomery 58 

Contributors 64 



On the cover: 
Graphite study by Greg Scheckler 



Editor's File 



f | \ his issue reflects once more the diverse range of thinking and writ- 
ing contained in The Mind's Eye. Meera Tamaya's engaging piece, 
"Confession as .Spll-Dramati/ation: I Confess, Therefore 1 Am," ex- 
plores an original subject with a combination of meticulous research and 
animated prose. Mecca's article is the recipient of the 2001 MCLA Faculty 
Lecture Series Award, which carries with it the opportunity lor publication 
in The Mind's Eye. In fact, this journal was founded, in part, with the pur- 
pose of publishing articles from the Faculty Lecture Series, the winners as 
well as others submitted for the competition. Over the years, many essays 
from the series have appeared in these pages; they have covered a number 
of subjects: from the theories of Charles Darwin and John Dewey to a 
discussion of literature and cyberspace; from a revealing account of Robert 
Perm Warren's writing habits to a psychological analysis of Hamlet. This is- 
sue also features Maynard Seider's "Inequities in Higher Education: The Ex- 
periences ol State College and Little Ivy Students." In our inaugural issue 
(Fall 1997). Maynard contributed an article based on his study of the I 970 
electrical workers' strike at the K. C. Sprague Company in North Adams. 
Maynard, too, was encouraged to complete both of these articles by ihe 
incentive of the Faculty Lecture Series and the subsequent opportunity to 
publish in The Mind's Eye. 

While these well-craticd and -researched articles explore ideas and 
discuss issues in a reflective and incisive manner, they are not necessarily 
ones that would suit the specialized niche ol a journal dedicated to a par- 
ticular disciplinary locus. Rather, they are designed to express opinions 
and insights for a more general liberal arts audience. It is our hope to en- 
courage more such writing from our faculty and readers, whether born 
out of the competition of the Faculty Lecture Series or the need to write 
and share informed opinion. 

Of course, The Mind's Eve also features other types of writing, as well as 
visual expression, and this issue is no exception, Celia Montgomery entertains 
us with her hilarious short story "The Devil Dog." Greg Scheckfer provides a 
visual episode with five graphite drawings ol landscapes. Bill Montgomery's 
"Radical Surgery" reviews The Breast Cancer Wars, and Abbot Cutler's poetry 
complements as well as completes the issue. As our pages celebrate these ac- 
complishments, we continue to expand the journal's readership and distribu- 
tion. Thanks to your help and support. The Mind's Eye is becoming a journal of 
regional disrtnetion with a growing national audience. 

Tony Gengarelly, Managing Editor 

4 The Mind's Eye 



Confession as 

Self-Dramatization: 

I Confess, Therefore I Am 

BY MEERA TAMAYA 



You really could have heard the proverbial pin drop. The speech 
was riveting. The speaker, a student in my speech class, had 
ihe total unblinking attention of his listeners, lie was describ- 
ing in graphic detail how he had slammed the car door repeatedly 
against the head ot a knife-wielding young man until he collapsed 
and died in a bloody heap. The assailant was a neo-Nazi who had 
begun by taunting him, an Italian American, (or keeping company 
with Afro-Americans, 

The speech was meant to convince the class of the horrific conse- 
quences of racism. The student went on to describe his conviction for 
manslaughter, imprisonment and subsequent release. What mesmer- 
ized me and, I suspect, the rest, uf the class was thai over and beyond his 
antiracist message, there was a confessional tone to his speech. Like the 
Ancient Mariner in Coleridge's eponymous poem who collared a wed- 
ding guest to confess his sin of killing an albatross, this student felt the 
need to confess, beyond his ostensible task of making a persuasi ve speech. 
Did I detect a hint of bravado: I confess, therefore I am? 

Bom and raided a Hindu, 1 have always been fascinated and slightly 
envious of the Catholic practice of confession. The syntax of the ritual 
request for absolution, "Bless me, Father, lor I have sinned," almost 
implies that sinning is a necessary prelude to the blessing to follow. 



The Mind's Rye 5 



Meera Tamaya 

The Catholic Church has a genius lor understanding the human need 
to tell all, to release the pressure of guilt, egged on by the added bonus 
of a confirmation of God's love. The absolute confidentiality of the 
confessional (which even a court of law cannot break) facilitates the 
articulation ol the darkest secrets. Tn the 1950s Hollywood movie / 
Confess, the acclaimed director Alfred Hitchcock dramatizes the pre- 
dicament of a priest, played by Montgomery Clift, who refuses to 
reveal the confession of a murderer even at the risk of implicating 
himself. 

This inviolability of confession holds true for other, more secular 
forms of confidentiality. A psychotherapist functions like a secular 
priest, listening with empathy, counseling and, above all, granting 
absolution of sorts; "It is not your fault you are violent, you leatned it 
from your father," or "You are neurotic because your mother toilet- 
trained you too early." My lamentable facetiousness aside, unarguably, 
Catholic confession has the added advantage of being free of charge, a 
consideration not to be sneezed at, considering the rocketing cost ($125 
or more per hour) of a psychiatrist. 

Then there is the status of confession in courts of law, often por- 
trayed in cop movies and mystery fiction. If Miranda rights are not 
read before an arrest, any incriminating comment or confession is in- 
admissible in court. Even with this caveat, everybody is familiar with 
the tricks and intimidation cops use to extract a confession. The sordid 
bareness ol the interview room, sleeplessness and fatigue, the good 
cop/bad cop routine, the real or implied threat of physical violence — 
all may, and often do. culminate in confessions true or false (1 will 
have more to say about this later). Even the more vulgar talk shows, 
in which overfed, underdressed teenagers and their parents confess to 
highly imaginative violations of social and sexual mores, have confes- 
sional elements: a defiant mixture of contrition and bravado. Mea culpa, 
I am guilty, is a sort of music to the ears of both speaker and listener: ft 
sounds a note of catharsis and binds both in a shared narrative. 

In his wide-ranging study of confessional practice titled Troubling 
Confessions: "Speaking Guilt in Law & Litetature," Peter Brouks points 
out that when President Clinton was accused of lying under oath re- 
garding Monica Lewinsky, it was not only the tabloids that bayed for 
the blood of confession — even the usually staid New York Times's 
(Decembet 12, 1998) lead editorial was titled "Contrition Without Con- 



6 The Mind's Eye 



Meera Tamaya 



Cession" (Brooks 1). This insistence on Clinton's public verbal admis- 
sion was not based on reason or logic: Thousands of pages of docu- 
mentation already existed. What the public craved was Clinton's ver- 
bal admission. Indeed, when he finally caved in and confessed in 
general terms (as a lawyer by training, he was too astute to commit 
himself to details), it was before a gathering of church leaders. His 
confession was distinctly Protestant in form — made in a congrega- 
tion of sons and very public, as opposed to the private and confiden- 
tial Catholic confession. 

Confession clearly plays a varied and recurring role in American 
society. In this article 1 propose to explore the emotional dynamics of 
confession, with a particular focus on the assertion of subjectivity 
implicit in confession and the consequent potential for self-dramati- 
zation. I will base my arguments on relevant examples from literature, 
law and popular culture. 

But first 1 would like to clarify what f mean by "subjectivity." 1 use 
the tenrr in the primary sense defined by The Orford Universal Dictionary as 
"consciousness of one's perceived state." The secondary meaning rel- 
evant for my purpose is "individuality, personality." The first-person- 
singular "I" often sums up the felt sense ol one's individual, unique, 
alfective response to the outside world. A crucial aspect of this felt 
inner sense of self is that it is not accessible to others during casual social 
intercourse. Indeed, according to Freud, it is often repressed and rel- 
egated to the unconscious, only to appear in dreams, art and neurotic 
symptoms. However, ritual and therapeutic occasions are also condu- 
cive to the articulation of the deeply subjective {42-43), 

The second term in my inquiry — self-dramatization — implies that 
a confessional narrative is often structured like a minidrama. That is, 
though the core at confession involves the commission of a sin, a trans- 
gression or a crime, it is usually preceded by an explanatory account 
of how it was committed. This narrative reveals an internal conflict, or 
psychomachia, between good and evil impulses. The inherently dra- 
matic nature of conllict, or agon, informs the basic structure ol West- 
ern drama from its origins in classical Greece and Rome, through the 
liturgical and homiletic drama of the Middle Ages, to its apogee in 
Renaissance drama. Shakespeare, the greatest dramatist of the Renais- 
sance, used and developed the theatrical convention of the soliloquy 
to explore in depth both subjectivity and its dramatization, In the 



The Mind's Tye 1 



Nleera Tamuya 



following pages, I will cite passages from confessional literature, legal 
cases and popular cull lire to demonstrate my central thesis that con- 
fession provides a ritualized means of articulating subjectivity in the 
most dramatic of forms. 

Since Catholic confession is the primary model for most con- 
fessional forms, it is necessary to examine the historic origins of con- 
fessional practice and examine its implications. In 1215, ihe Fourth 
Laternn Council called for the first time for an annual confession, 
which would absolve the penitent of sins and prepare his/her soul for 
the Last Judgmem (Brooks 83). Penances and punishments had been 
public and communal until 121 5; the Fourth Lateran Council made 
confession private and confidential. What is particularly significant is 
that annual confession was instituted along with two other cardinal 
tenets of Christian practice: the profession of dogma and the extirpa- 
tion of heresy. Thus, the practice of confession was meant both to 
console and to police: "It offers articulation of hidden acts and thoughts 
in a form that reveals — perhaps in a sense creates — the inwardness of 
the person confessing, and allows the person's punishment, absolu- 
tion, rehabilitation, reintegration" (Brooks 2). 

By simultaneously instituting the practice of confession, and the 
professiun of dogma and the extirpation of heresy, the Catholic Church 
established the importance of thoughts as well as deeds. That is, a 
devout Catholic had to be pure of thought as well as of action. By- 
positing an inner life which had to conform to Church dogma, the 
Church, in a sense, officially recognized the existence of thoughts and 
feelings, which might be at variance with outward actions and, there- 
fore, had to be rigorously examined and attested to. in other words, 
the intricacy of rules, regulations and strictures the Church created to 
constrain individual desires paradoxically confirmed the power of those 
desires, indeed, according to Brooks, the Fourth Lateran Council 
granted official recognition to, and reckoned with, human subjectiv- 
ity (9). Impure and heretical thoughts deserved a hearing, scrutiny 
and punishment just as much as actions did. 

ft is not surprising that in the long and honorable tradition of con- 
fessional literature, it is St.. Augustine's Confessions that opens the flood- 
gates. Born in 354 in Algeria, trained as a rhetorician in the classical 
Roman school, the son of a pagan father and a Christian mother, it 
was Augustine who first recorded every tremor of his subjective life. 

8 The Mind's Eye 



Meera Tamaya 



Written 13 years after his conversion to Christianity in Milan, 
Augustine's Confessions has a dual purpose: to praise God and to chart 
his own circuitous journey to the true faith, In spite of his rigorous 
rhetorical training, the Confessions is so rambling, so stream of con- 
sciousness in its ebb and flow and so lacking an organizing principle 
that the effect on the reader is that of eavesdropping into the inner- 
most recesses of St. Augustine's heart. Indeed, torn between the 
demands of his strongly sensual and spiritual nature, beset by the hoary 
dualism between mind/matter and soul/body, Augustine locates God 
in the "inwardness," in the "secret spaces of the soul": "In seeking for 
you I followed not the intelligence of the mind, by which you willed 
thaT I should surpass the beasts, but the mind of flesh. But you were 
more inward than my most inward part and higher than the highest 
element in me" (4-3). 

Augustine's Confessions, when not taken up with hairsplitting theo- 
logical arguments against Manichaeans, Donatists and other assorted 
sects, is preoccupied with guilt over his concupiscence — he lived with 
a lowborn Carthaginian woman for 15 sexually sated years before he 
was persuaded to discard her and his only son for a wealthy woman 
who would help advance his ambitions. The chronic guilt he suffers 
over his lustfulness is more than compensated for by the pleasure he 
derives from it. and the honesty with which be records the latter is 
unintentionally comical: "But I was an unhappy young man, wretched 
as at the beginning of my adolescence when 1 prayed you for chastity 
and said: 'Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet'" (145). 

Augustine's fascination with his interior drama may well have 
derived from his passionate love of the theater: "I was captivated by 
theatrical shows, They were full of representations of my own miser- 
ies and fueled my fire. . . . What is this but my amazing folly? For the 
more anyone is moved by these scenes, the less Iree he is from similar 
passions. . . . But if he feels pain, he stays riveted in his seat enjoying 
himself" (35-36). Precisely. Indeed, what made me slog through the 
self-absorbed effusions of the Confessions was exactly what attracted 
Augustine to theatrical shows — the intimate drama of his affective self. 

More than fOOO years after Augustine, James Joyce's gilts as a 
novelist enabled him to imagine the power dynamics of the Catholic 
confessional. In his autobiographical novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a 
Young Man, the protagonist imagines what it would be like to become 



The Mind's Eye 9 



Meera Tamaya 



a priest and listen to the penitent's must secret transgressions. The 
power of the priest to penetrate the secret spaces of the heart consti- 
tutes an erotics of confession: 

He would know obscure things, hidden from others, from 
those who were conceived and born children of wrath. He 
would know the sins, the sinful longings and sinful thoughts 
and sinful acts, of others, hearing them murmured into his 
ears in the confessional under the shame of a darkened chapel 
by the lips of women and of girls. ... He would hold his 
secret knowledge and secret power, being as sinless as the 
innocent. . . . ( 1 5')) 

What excites the adolescent narrator is the idea that as a priest he 
would have the power over confessants, especially over females, to 
elicit their most secret thoughts, which would otherwise be inacces- 
sible to him. The priestly vocation attracts him by its implicit power 
over others' most secret selves. As Peter Brooks points out, "If knowl- 
edge is power, knowledge of secrets— of that which is consciously held 
back from knowledge — is the supreme and vertiginous power, offer- 
ing the confessor a particular position of dominance in regard to the 
rest of humankind" (89). 

From a psychological and moral perspective, a priest has immense, 
if unacknowledged, power over the confessant. He holds the key to 
the latter's innermost soul and, indeed, as pan of his training, a priest 
receives elaborate instructions on how to elicit the truest, deepest se- 
crets of the soul. This is one more similarity between the priest and his 
secular counterpart, the modern psychiatrist, who also undergoes train- 
ing in therapeutic listening. While the priest's ear is attuned to the 
nuances of sin, the therapist tunes in to the silences and omissions, 
which speak loudly of repression. Freud's famous "talking cure," as 
Anna O, one of his patients, termed it, is the secular equivalent of the 
confessional (Breuer 50). A patient unburdens himself/herself, and 
the psychiatrist's task is to fill in the gaps of the narrative, to ferret mil 
and bring to light the repressed contents of the unconscious. The priest, 
on the other hand, lends a sympathetic and encouraging ear as the 
penitent confesses to the sins s/he knows s/he has committed. Both 
the patient and the penitent are relieved of the bnrden of secrets and 
experience a catharsis. 

10 The Mind's Eye 



Meera Tarnaya 



The term catharsis was first used by Aristotle to describe the 
effects of Greek drama: "Tragedy, then, is the imitation of a good ac- 
tion . . . through pity and terror it achieves purgation (catharsis) of 
such emotions" (f 2). The Greek word katharsis has been variously trans- 
lated as purification or purgation, but in common use it generally sug- 
gests the relief felt after an outpouring of emotion. The action of Greek 
tragedy usually involves violations of divine or state or kinship laws, 
the most famous of which is the taboo against incest. This became a 
cornerstone of Freudian theory known as the Oedipus complex, after 
the Theban king who inadvertently kills his father and marries his 
mother. Although his fate has been foreordained, and he has tried his 
best to escape it, Oedipus assumes responsibility for his crimes, and 
punishes himself by blinding and exiling himself. According to Freud, 
who based his theories as much on literature as on case studies, such 
transgressions are poetic expressions of universal desires — summed 
up, for example, in the folk perception that men marry women who 
resemble their mothers. It follows that the emotions simultaneously 
aroused and purged by tragedy are the result of the audience's 
etnpatbetic identification with the suffering protagonist, in tacit ac- 
knowledgment of their common humanity. 

In the central paradox of Christianity, FeiixCulpa, the Fortunate or 
Happy Fall, Adam and Eve's sin uf disobedience is punished by death. 
The promise of redemption by the shedding of the Son's blood that 
follows lurks not far beneath the ritual request "Bless me. Father, lor I 
have sinned." ft is the capacity lor sin, the fallibility of mortal flesh, 
that characterizes the human, and it is this very humanness which is 
redeemed by God's love and forgiveness — Ego te absolve — after full con- 
fession. If the sinner has strayed beyond the pale of human society, 
repentance, confession and absolution reconcile and reintegrate the 
penitent into the Christian community; the straying sinner is once 
again part of the flock guided by the Good Shepherd, fn f969, the 
Second Vatican Council implicitly recognized this model when it 
changed the sacrament of confession to the saci ameni of recout illa- 
tion. Indeed, in many churches the confessional box, with its assur- 
ance of anonymity, is no longer used; instead, the priest and the 
penitent sit facing each other, not unlike a patient and a psychiatrist. 

A crucial human ingredient for the achievement of catharsis, or the 
emotional relief experienced by penitents, patients and the audience 



The Mind's Eye 11 



Meera Tamaya 



of tragic drama is, of Course, empathy. Unarguably, no dramatist has 
more successfully evoked empathetic identification with a wider range 
of characters, both villains and heroes, than Shakespeare has. His 
plays abound in a spectacular variety of characters who have attained 
iconic status, not only among the eggheads of acidemia but with fans 
of popular culture as well. The poetry-spouting Scottish serial killer 
Macbeth, the unfocused and suicidal Hamlet (the revenger in need of 
both Ritalin and Prozac), the hunchbacked King Richard III, who cack- 
les with glee before every murder, the sadistic manipulator lago, the 
illegitimate Edmund, who incites and watches the blinding of his fa- 
ther, all engage the audience's emotions and enlarge their understand- 
ing. How does Shakespeare manage this extraordinary feat? It is my 
contention that Shakespeare's development of the confessional solilo- 
quy is a major element in eliciting audience empathy. 

A soliloquy or monologue is a speech a dramatis persona makes 
either to himself or to the audience; it is the opposite of a dialogue, 
when two or more characters engage in verbal give-and-take. In clas- 
sical Greek and Roman drama, soliloquies are usually expository 
speeches addressed to the audience, which convey background infor- 
mation in the form of introductory prologues. Renaissance drama, 
however, evolved from its immediate predecessor, medieval folk 
drama — mystery and morality plays — which were liturgical and homi- 
letic in content, and acted out in churchyards, inn yards and market 
squares. Mystery plays celebrated key events in the liturgical calen- 
dar, from the Annunciation to the Resurrection, Morality plays alle- 
gorized the internal conflict or psychomachia between good and evil or 
angels and devils experienced by Mankind or Everyman. Most of the 
soliloquies in mystery and morality plays were addressed directly to 
the audience by the Devil or vice figure, who revealed his diabolic 
plots; and since by convention the protagonist could not hear these 
confessional speeches, there was an added element of frisson which 
heightened the impact of these allegorical plays and reinforced their 
didactic message (Skiffington 25-70; Spivack 1 5). 

Besides the theatrical provenance of the soliloquy, it is relevant to 
recall that Shakespeare lived (1545-1616) during a time when 
England's transition from Catholicism to Protestantism was anything 
but smooth; indeed, it was rile with controversy and turmoil. Eliza- 



12 The Mind's Eye 



Meera Tamaya 



beth I, under whose reign Shakespeare wrote most of his plays, chose 
to follow a more moderate course than her father, Henry VIII (whose 
defiance of the Pope over his divorce precipitated the break with the 
Catholic Church), and his daughter Mary Tudor, who, married to the 
Spanish king, tried to reestablish the supremacy of the Catholic Church 
through violent means. Prudently less fanatical than either her father 
or her stepsister, and more Interested in Iter own survival as queen, 
Elizabeth did not encourage the persecution, the burnings at the stake 
and the torture of heretics that her predecessors had pursued so re- 
lentlessly. Nevertheless, she was the head of the Church of England, 
and Catholics, while substantial in number, were always under threat. 
However, the Reformed Church retained some elements of the old 
religion. Instead of private confessions, the zeal ol Calvin, Knox and 
their Followers made a public accounting of one's sins, confessional in 
tone, very popular (Clinton's admission of guilt before a gathering of 
church leaders may be seen as a relic of this practice). Thus, it is en- 
tirely possible that Shakespeare, the canny craftsman that he was, drew 
upon both the private Catholic and the public Protestant confessional 
forms for his sophisticated use of soliloquies. 

In general, Shakespearean villains, descendants of medieval 
satanic and vice figures, confess their motivations and their Machia- 
vellian stratagems in soliloquies to the audience, while the protago- 
nists reveal their inner conflicts and ambivalence, thereby enlisting 
audience sympathy. Since Shakespeare uses soliloquies in ways too 
numerous to make a comprehensive survey within the scope of an 
article, I will focus here on the tew most significant of the self- 
dramatizing, confessional soliloquies. 

I will begio with the linal speech addressed directly to the audi- 
ence in the last play written by Shakespeare, considered by many schol- 
ars as Shakespeare's own farewell to the audience. In The Tempest. 
Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, well versed in the arts of magic, 
creates a storm and stages some punitive theatrical shows to intimi- 
date his enemies. At the end of the play, however, Prospero decides 
that "the rarer action is/In virtue than in vengeance" (5.1.27-28), for- 
gives everyone and renounces his magical powers. In the epilogue, he 
appeals to the audience to sel him free. Since he stages theatrical 
displays, he is considered an artist figure, a stand-in and a mouih- 



The Mind's Eye 13 



Meeta Tamaya 

piece for Shakespeare himself. Hence, Prospero's farewell speech 
may well have voiced Shakespeare's own feelings about his impend- 
ing retirement: 

. . . Now 1 want 

Spirits to enforce, art to enchant. 

And my ending is despair, 

Unless 1 be reliev'd by prayer. 

Which pierces so, that it assaults 

Mercy itself, and frees all faults. 
As yon from crimes would pardon 'd be, 
Let your indulgence set me free. (Epilogue 1 3-20) 

Having renounced both secular and magical powers, Prospero adopts 
Christian vocabulary and concepts in his final speech. Prospero's faith 
that the power of prayer "frees all faults" is at the core of Catholic 
dogma, and it is particularly relevant to my argument that Prospero 
casts himself as a penitent before a priestly audience that has the power 
to grant him absolution: "As you from crimes would pardon'd be. /Let 
your indulgence set me free." Prospero's use of religious terms — par- 
don, indulgence, prayer, mercy — reinforces the confessional aspects of his 
farewell speech. It is interesting to recall that one of Martin Luther's 
chief complaints against the Catholic Church was the sale of indul- 
gences — pardons sold by a venal clergy. The power of a theatrical audi- 
ence to boo or applaud a play becomes analogous to mercy granted or 
withheld. Thus, Prospero and the audience, like confessor and confessant, 
share a very human narrative of sin, suffering and redemption. 

Shakespeare's villains, unlike his heroes, indulge in confessional 
soliloquies to brag about their superiority over the usual run of law- 
abiding humanity. Richard 111 is one of the more self-dramatizing 
Machiavelli in the Shakespearean canon and when, in the opening 
soliloquy, he explains the roots of his psychosis, he instantly engages 
the audience's sympathy and, by implication, its psychological collu- 
sion in his Machiavellian schemes. Like a talk-show participant, Rich- 
ard blames it all on his poor self-esteem: 

Delorm'd, unfinish'd, sent before my time 
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up. 
And that so lamely and unfashionable 
That dogs bark at rue as 1 halt by them — 



14 The Mind's Eye 



Meera Tanmya 



Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace. 

Have no delight to pass away the time. 

Unless to see my shadow in the sun 

And descant on mine own deformity. 

And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover 

To entertain these fair well-spoken days, 

I am determined to prove a villain. . . . (l.i.20-30) 

Richard, poor chap, knows he cannot count on physical perfection to 
seduce a woman; he has to rely on smooth talk. And he does: Willi 
incredible rhetorical skill, he woos and wins the widow of the man lie 
has just murdered. 

Toutcomprendre, e'est tout pardonner:7c> understand all is to lorgive 
all. Shakespeare's portrayal of villains is so psychologically plausible 
that we are made to understand the social roots of their evil, Edmund, 
the illegitimate son in King I,ear, is one of the more spectacular villains 
in Shakespearean drama: He conspires against his elder brother, ap- 
propriates his inheritance, incites the blinding of his father and, fi- 
nally, orders the execution of the saintly Cordelia. What humanizes 
and makes Edmund a charismatic character is his brilliantly articu- 
lated, entirely legitimate sense of grievance. 

His psychotic resentment is rooted in England's infamous laws of 
primogeniture, which mandate that the entire estate is inherited by 
the eldest son, while the younger sons are left to fend for themselves 
(England has a long tradition of sending younger sons and convicts to 
its colonial outposts— Australia is a prime example). In Edmund's case, 
not only is he a younger son but he is illegitimate and, therefore, he 
has no place in society and no rights whatever. For all legal purposes, 
he is invisible: He does not exist. His soliloquy foreshadows a Darwin- 
ian view of nature as a struggle lor survival, a view also anticipated by 
Hobbes, in The Leviathan. 

Here is the concluding portion of Edmund's soliloquy: 

. . Why brand they us 
Willi base? with baseness? bastardy? base? 
Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, lake 
More composition, and fierce quality. 
Than doth within a dull, stale, tired bed 
Go to th' creating a whole tribe of fops. 



The Mind's Eye 15 



Meera Tamaya 

Got 'tween asleep and wake? Well then, 
Legitimate Edgar, I R1US1 have your land. 
Our father's love is to the bastard Edrnund 
As to lh' legitimate. ... If this letter speed 
And my invention thrive, Edmund the base 
Shall [top] th' legitimate. I grow, I prosper: 
Now, gods, stand up for bastards! ( 1 .ii.9-22) 

Edmund's soliloquy makes a brilliant argument against laws and pro- 
scriptions, especially British laws of inheritance. With superb wit, he 
imagines the energy and stealth required to commit adultery: the 
strength of desire needed to sneak out of his wife's and into his mis- 
tress' bed. A bastard conceived in such circumstances is likely to be a 
splendid specimen, while a legitimate child conceived between a yawn 
and a snore ("Got, 'tween asleep and wake") is bound to be a weak- 
ling. Nature's struggle lor survival ensures the triumph of the strong 
bastard son, because nature knows no morality: it is amoral. By an- 
choring Edmund's villainy in social injustice, Shakespeare makes the 
audience understand the seeds of murderous resentment. We might 
safely say that Shakespeare was a sociaf constructionist before his lime. 
Of course, by this time, it should he clear that Shakespeare's insights 
anticipate those of Freud, Marx and Darwin and, what is more, he is a 
lot less verbose, and far more entertaining. 

Shakespeare's protagonists are given to uttering inspired poetry in 
their confessional soliloquies. The hyperambitious Macbeth would be 
as driven and one-dimensional as the former CEO of G.E., Jack Welch, 
also known as Neutron Jack for his ruthlessness (Welch 181) if Shakes- 
peare had not given him lines of singular beauty which attest to a 
troubled conscience and, hence, to a complex consciousness. Hamlet, 
the most introspective of Shakespearean heroes, has the most num- 
ber — seven in all — of soliloquies in [he entire canon. Since his solilo- 
quies cover a wide range of issues, I will confine myself to a few lines 
from his first extended soliloquy, in which he reveals that he is (lining 
with the idea of suicide — a mortal sin and, hence, the most confes- 
sional in tone: 

O that this loo ton sallied flesh would melt, 
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew! 
Or that the Everlasting had not lix'd 



16 The Mind's five 



Meera Tamaya 



His canon 'gainst [self-]slaughter! O God, God, 

How [weary], stale, flat, and unprofitable 

Seem to me all the uses of this world! 

Fie ou t, ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden 

That grows to seed, things rank and gross in nature 

Possess it merely, (1.11.129-137) 

Even if we have never been diagnosed with clinical depression, surely 
.in aspect of being human is the experience of depression, even if only 
as a passing phase. What Shakespeare has done in these lines is articu- 
late the precise stages and details of suicidal depression, beginning 
with the physical heaviness ("too too sallied flesh"), lethargy, even 
inertness, which many experience as an inability to get out of bed, 
followed by the suicidal wish that the body would "melt, thaw, and 
resolve itself into a dew." As a Catholic (his murdered father's ghost 
bemoans the fact that he was dispatched without last riles) returned 
from the university in Wittenberg (made famous by Luther), Hamlet is 
agonizingly aware that "self-slaughter" is a mortal sin. His sense of utter 
hopelessness is captured by the enervating rhythms of "How weary, 
stale, flat, and unprofitable/Seem to me all the uses of litis world," fol- 
lowed by the projection of bis nihilist view on the whole world, which 
turns into, in Hamlet's jaundiced imagination, "an unweeded garden." 
When 1 mentioned earlier that Shakespeare anticipated Freud, Marx 
and Darwin, 1 should have included the names of a lew contempo- 
rary theorists of consciousness as well, such as Antonio Damasio, 
Daniel Dennett and Roger Penrose. For what Shakespeare has cap- 
tured in Hamlet's soliloquies is the ebb and flow of consciousness — 
the ever-changing amalgam of sensory awareness, thoughts and feel- 
ings which forms the cote of our subjectivity. 

II Shakespeare's major characters are highly individualized through 
their confessional soliloquies, it was the French philosopher Jean- 
Jacques Rousseau whose Confessions stands as a literary monument to 
the new cult of solipsism also known as Romanticism, Rousseau an- 
nounces in the opening paragraph that part of the reason for commit- 
ting his life to paper with unabashed frankness is that he wants to 
proclaim to the world that he is unique, unlike anyone he knows: 

But I am made unlike any one I have ever met; 1 will even 
venture to say that I am like no one in the whole world. 1 

The Mind's Rye 17 



Meera Tamaya 



may be no better, but at least I am different. ... I have dis- 
played myself as I was, as vile and despicable when my be- 
havior was such, as good, generous, and nnble when 1 was 
so. I have bared my secret soul as Thou thyself hast seen it. 
Eternal Being! So let the numberless legion of my fellow men 
gather round me, and hear my confessions. Let them groan 
at my depravities, and blush for my misdeeds. (17) 

The key point in this opening salvo is Rousseau's determination to 
perform an emotional and mental striptease before his God as well as 
his readers. His confessions, meant to he read by "the numberless 
legion," will be utterly honest, he will expose the depths as well as the 
heights of his being. This verbal avalanche is meant to overwhelm the 
reader with a sense of Rousseau's uniqueness: "I am different." 

In subsequent chapters, Rousseau reveals that his penchant for 
sell-exposure is not merely verbal; it is literal as well. He describes 
how an early spanking aroused in him feelings of erotic excitement. 
Later, as an adolescent, in pursuit of his masochistic desires, he delib- 
erately runs into a courtyard in Turin frequented by maidservants and 
bares his backside; he hopes to get caught and whipped soundly. He 
can think of no other way to gratify his desire lor corporal punish- 
ment. Rousseau seems to take considerable pleasure in his self-degra- 
dation — it is, after all, further testimony to how different he is from 
the general run of humanity. 

With Rousseau, confession has moved from the private and self- 
exculpatory to the public and self-proclamatory and, finally, to the 
self- dramatizing and self-assertive. Rousseau's ideas proved a major 
catalyst to the Romantic Movement in literature, in England, 
Wordsworth, Shelley and Byron opened the floodgates to confessional 
poetry. Wordsworth wrote an epic poem (a genre which traditionally 
chronicles the adventures of national heroes like Odysseus and Achil- 
les), titled The Prelude, with himself as subject. In the 20th century, 
Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath, to name only a few, 
made poetry out of their own family and personal neuroses. 

So much for literary confessions. In the public, legal domain, the 
advances in biotechnology are increasingly discrediting confessional 
evidence. In an article titled "Cornered Minds, raise Confessions," 
Jim Dwyer states: 

18 The Mind's Eye 



blletra Tamaya 



Ol all the causes of wrongful conviction, the fake confession 
has to rank among the most astounding. Yet it has factored in 
the prosecution of 22 of those 98 cases [exonerated by DNA 
testing], according to Jane Siegal Greene, the executive direc- 
tor of the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardoza School 
of Law in New York, which has helped more than 50 con- 
victed prisoners obtain their freedom through DNA testing, 
(The New York Times, December 9, 2001) 

People confess their guilt for all kinds of reasons, chief of which may 
be submission to police pressure as a means of gaining and riveting 
attention to oneself, ft is my belief that while human basic needs for 
food, shelter, etc., have received extensive scrutiny, the very human/ 
animal need for attention has not been adequately studied. It is in- 
structive lhat Talmudic law prohibits the admissibility of confessions 
in courts of law. In his commentary, Maimonides cites confusion and 
self-deslructivencss as two of the main reasons why it is a divine decree 
that no man should be convicted on his own admission (Brooks 72). 

1 began this article with the assumption that Western man is, in 
■ Michel Foucault's words, "a confessinganimal" (Brooks6). Butwatch- 
ing Osama Bin Laden discussing the September 11th attack on the 
World Trade Center, assuming that the tape is authentic, I could not 
help wondering why such a secretive and elusive man would allow 
himself to be taped in what amounts to a visual and auditory record ol 
his self-incrimination. Perhaps the urge to confess is not. limited to 
Western man; perhaps it is an expression of the universal desire, so 
well dramatized by Shakespearean villains, for attention, to be center 
stage at all costs. Perhaps videotaping provides an easy and irresistible 
technological means of self-dramatization and immortality, which 
seems lo be a distinctive need of Homo sapiens. 

If religion is, in its origins, a very human response to the fore- 
knowledge and lear of death— the promise of life after death makes 
the latter endurable— then it is possible that the contemporary belief 
fn the infallibility ol technology has provided us with its own version 
of immortality. Ingrid Bergman will be forever young, eyes luminous 
with unshed tears, as she bids goodbye to Humphrey Bogart in 
Casablanca. Celebrities, criminals and even ordinary folk can record 
themselves in speech and action- Criminals, especially rapists and 



The Mind's Eye 19 



Meeia Tamaya 



pedopMleS; often videotape themselves, thus providing incontrovert- 
ible incriminating confessions. Tile self-dramatizing confessional drive 
has. indeed, moved beyond the confessional, the conn and the office, 
into nearly indestructible videotapes. With her customary acid wil, 
columnist Maureen Dowd terms the human need for admiring atten- 
tion as Acquired Situational Narcissism. In her words, "If Narcissus 
came back today, he wouldn't be staring into the lake. He would be 
hitting the record button" {The New York Times, December 16, 2001 ), 

Bibliography 

Aristotle. On Poetry and Style. Trans. G. M. A. Grube. New York: Bohbs 
Merrill, 1958. 

Augustine, St. Confessions. Trans. Henry Chadwick. London: Oxford 
UP, 1998. 

Breuer, Joseph, and Sigmund Freud. Studies on Hysteria. Trans. James 

Strachey, New York: Basic Books. 1957. 
Brooks, Peter. Troubling Confessions. U of Chicago P, 2000. 
Clemen, Wolfgang, Shakespeare's Soliloquies. Trans. Charity Scott Stokes. 

London: Methuen, I9S7. 
Daniasio, Antonio R. Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human 

Brain. NewYurk: Putnam, 1994. 
Darwin, Charles. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. 

New Yurk: Athencurn, 1967. 
Dennetl, Daniel. Consciousness Explained. Boston: Little Brown, 1991. 
Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality. Trans, Robert Hurley. New 

York: Pantheon, 1978. 
Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and its Discontents. Trans, and ed. James 

Strachey. New Yurk: Norton, 1961. 
Hobbes, The Leviathan. Fd. Michael Oakshott. Oxford: Blackwell, 1946. 
Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: Viking, 1964. 
Maus, Katharine Eisaman. Inwardness and Theater in the English Re- 
naissance. U of Chicago P. 1995. 
Penrose, Roger. The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, 

and the Laws of Physics. New York: Penguin. 199 1 . 
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Confessions. Trans. J, M. Cohen. New York: 

Penguin. 195 3. 



20 The Mind's Eye 



Meera Tamaya 



Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. Ed. Blakemore Evans. 
Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974. 

SkiffingUm, Lloyd A. The History of English Soliloquy. Lanham, MD: UP 
o( America, 1985. 

Spivaek, Bernard. Shakespeare and the Allegory of Evil: "The History of a 
Metaphor m Relation to His Major Villains." New York: Co- 
lumbia UP, 1958. 

Welch, Jack, with John A. Byrne. Jack: Straight from theGut. .New York: 
Warner. 2001. 



The Mind's Eye 21 



Three Poems 



BY ABBOT CUTLER 



HUMMING 

- 

t. 

In d hallway somewhere a woman 
hums a song. It is a song 
against linoleum and loneliness and reams 
of paper, long corridors and copy machines. 
It is a song to ward off computer terminals 
and metal water fountains, a song 
against flimsy walls and desks in corners, 
cubicles and conference rooms. The woman 
hums her song and it is a song 
ol dense low pines on the side 
of a mountain, of sand and pale grass 
just back from the ocean, of wet earth 
and garlic and well-worn maps. 



II, 

A man and a woman lie together 
beneath a window looking out 
over somnolent trucks bull to hull 
un a Sunday morning in the endless lot. 
For once it is quiet. No machine 
will make their life easier. 
They are talking, their bodies 
touching aiong the length of them. 
We cannot hear what they are saying. 
The sun falls across a chair 



22 The Mind's Eye 



draped wilh clothes. For now 

there is nothing that they have to do. 

There is nothing that they don't have enough of, 

In time, as the dark falls down 

between the buildings and the night. 

seems lull of small sadness, 

she will remember the way the light 

enters a room and standing again 

by the copy machine in a hallway 

she will begin to hum, 

to sing with closed lips, 

not saying the words, and the song 

will slide along the sheetrock walls, 

hover by the partitions, rub up 

against the mail chute, fade 

into the back stairwell and make its way 

down into the busy street long after, 

long after she's gone. 



Abbot Culler 



GOING OUT 

As il a door, crude, made 
from wood, gnarled and bruised, 
appeared in my house where no door 
had stood before, and I went through it 
and found the road and the will to say- 
it doesn't mailer . - - neither grief, 
nor love, nor anger, the way they looked 
at me, not even that the road 
disappeared and I was left 
among dark stones and a gray sky. 



24 Tfe Mind's Bye 



POSSESSIONS 



Last night's lire has left a perfect circle 
in black, gray and white, the spring brush 
a pile of ash to blow in the wind 
or wash in rain till there's nothing 
lo say tree. 

If there had been no house, 

or baking pans, or pile of 

magazines, or cedar chest 

filled with blankets; if 

the porcupine we found, its flesh 

still soft, had been killed by us 

and we'd skinned and cooked 

him and thrown the bones 

into the coals and then lay down 

to sleep, maybe in a hundred years 

or more someone would find 

blackened bits of bone 

and know that we were here. 



Artwork 



BY GREG SCHECKLER 

Artist's Statement 

Tin's past summer I focused must of my creative efforts on 
representational landscape art. f enjoyed a two-month residency 
with North Adams' Contemporary Arrisrs Center, most of whirh 
time I spent researching the woods and mountains of the Berkshire's. 
In landscape art, the artist must balance imagination, memory and 
environment. In my opinion, a "balanced composition" is not only a 
matter of making static or dynamic visual counterweights and focal 
points but also a matter of the psychological necessity of matching 
invention with the environment. So lor me, making artwork Irom 
observations of nature — whether abstract or representational — isn't 
simply about capturing the light or expressing oneself. Certainly, there 
is light and shade, and important viewpoints, and expressions. But I 
think in landscape art the artistic process ought to be more about 
recognizing, playing with and refining how all of these designs add 
up to good fictions. 

Reproduced here is a selection of graphite studies that were made 
partially in the field and partially from the fieldwork and my imagina- 
tion, when I was indoors. Unlike a photograph, which is a fairly brief 
exposure across a moment of time, a drawing is labor-intensive — less 
an exposure of one moment than a refined collection of physical re- 
sponses to many different glances at the world. This attitude of a draw- 
ing or painting's being a collection of many moments is something T 
learned from the Hudson River painters, many of whose paintings 
clearly demonstrate many perspectives and times of day in one image, 
without resorting to a fractured cubism. I hope in the future to con- 
tinue refining my landscape work until it is at least as strangely beau- 
tiful as the Hudson River painters" efforts. 

26 The Mind's Eye 



c reg Sckeekler 





The Mind's Eye 21 



Greg Scheckler 




28 The Mind's Eye 



Fiction 



The Devil Dog 

BY CELIA MONTGOMERY 



I n an East Side apartment, not far from Grade Mansion, where the 
mayor fives, on the 14th floor of the Harding Arms at the corner 
of East End Avenue and 82nd Street, lives a couple named George 
and Leonore. 

They possess a Classic Six, which is a very special distinction in 
Manhattan. The Classic Six is located within a half block of the very 
bcsl dry cleaner in Manhattan (Chow Ytm, who also does excellent 
alterations). For most New Yorkers, these two privileges would guar- 
antee happiness, but two years ago, when this story begins, George 
and Leonore were not happy at all. They were very lonely. 

You see, around thai lime, George and Leonore's remarkable 
daughter, Albenine, moved to her own apartment many blocks away 
on the West Side. George and Leonore had tried to prevent Albertine's 
departure. Leonore had promised Albenine new drapes for her walk- 
in closet, and George had upgraded the cable TV, but Albertine was 
insistent. 

"You know. Mother," she explained, "my shoes have absolutely 
blistered me by the time f reach the 6 train, and a cab is impossible in 
midtown, so I need an apartment closer to my office — besides, it will 
be such a lovely tax write-off for you and Daddy." 

To reach Albertine's apartment, George and Leonore had to take 
the crosstown bus at 79th Street, and then transfer to the C train. 
When they got there, Albertine was frequently out, because she was a 
very busy girl. 



The Mind's Eye 29 



Celitl Montgomery 



George and Leonore tried to stay busy and sociable. George asked 
his doorman every morning how the weather seemed to him. Leonore 
joined a wine-tasting club. Bui these activities paled in comparison 
with Albertine's sparkling company. 

One day, when George asked his doorman how the weather 
seemed to him, the doorman, whose name was Felipe, replied, "Cloudy, 
and not so dry, but I've got a puppy you could have." 

At first, George thought he had misunderstood Felipe and that 
perhaps by "puppy," Felipe had meant to say "umbrella." But Felipe 
had not meant to say umbrella. 

"It is a marvelous dog. Very, very beautiful. He is very smart, also." 

George had never owned a dog before. He didn't think that dogs 
really liked apartments. 

"Ah, but you've got a Classic Six," said Felipe, "plenty of room lor 
a small dog!" 

"Is it a very small dog?" asked George. "T'd have to speak to 
Leonore." 

"He is very small and blond. He will match your furniture!" 
Leonore had a lovely blond bird's-eye maple hutch in the front hall. 
George thought for a moment. Leonore's birthday was Tuesday. She 
had always liked the dog at their friend Wilma's apartment, the one 
that slept all the time 

"Does it sleep much?" 

Felipe paused for a moment. "I cannot remember," he replied. 
"His name is Ernesto." 

Lhe following Tuesday, George took Leonore to Le Bemardin for 
the prix fixe lunch, and then he took her to Queens, to Felipe's 
girlfriend's apartment, where they met Ernesto. 

Ernesto was, as Felipe had promised, small and blond. He had a 
long lock of blond hair that hung over his right eye, and lurry long ears 
that seemed larger than the rest of him. He had what looked like a ball 
in his mouth, but later it turned out to be a pair of black stockings 

Leonore thought Ernesto would indeed match her blond birds- 
eye maple hutch. Also, she liked the name Ernesto. George and Leonore 
had found their first dog. 

Ernesto did not mind leaving Felipe's girlfriend's apartment, but 
he did object to leaving the pair of stockings. Felipe's girlfriend did not 
seem to mind. "Just take him away!" she cried. 

30 The Mind's Eye 



Celia Montgomery 

George and Leonore could not find a cab in that pan oi Queens, 
so they took Ernesto on the subway. Ernesto was very pleased to have 
such an exciting trip. There were many interesting things to bark at! 

Ernesto was so impressed by East 82nd Street that he dropped 
Felipe's girlfriend's stockings. Many new dogs lived on East 82nd Street, 
and Ernesto was determined to leave a message lorall of them. George 
had to pull hard on Ernesto's leash to get him into the Harding Arms. 
Finally, Leonore scooped him up. But she put him down when she 
saw the new thing in his mouth! 

George made Ernesto give up the new thing. 

Back in the Classic Six, Ernesto found many new things to inter- 
est him. There was George's domino collection, Leonore's new pair of 
Ferragamos, the delivery from Gristina's Grocery, the remote control 
to the television set and many other tempting toys. 

George and Leonore hadn't realized that their possessions made 
such wonderful puppy toys. They Iriedtobe amused. Leonore thought 
that perhaps Ernesto was hungry, but he didn't take much interest in 
the Nutri-Bits that George had purchased. He was lar too involved 
with the brocade edging on the dining room, curtains. 

"No, no," said Leonore. 

"Sit," said George. But Ernesto did not respond. He had just been 
distracted by George's cashmere scarf, which was hanging temptingly 
from the armchair. 

Two weeks later, the Classic Six was much changed. George and 
Leonore could barely keep track of Ernesto's many alterations. They 
were too exhausted to put everything back in order. Ernesto rose 
promptly at six each morning, and George found that he needed to 
take Ernesto out by 6:30, or everyone would be sorry. Leonore learned 
to keep everything in high places. Her shoes were moved to the top of 
the refrigerator. 

Ernesto was quite content. George and Leonore were very nice 
people. They did seem startled at times, but George was a wonderful 
walker. He was always so patient about waiting lor Ernesto's "mes- 
sages," and Leonore had such a sweet low voice. "No, no," and "Not 
the Hermes satchel!" sounded positively melodic. At the end of each 
day, when Ernesto finally became tired, he would hop into George 
and Leonore's bed and kiss them both very warmly. 

George and Leonore were no longer lonely, but they were 



The Mind's Eye 31 



Celia Montgomery 



confused. Ernesto seemed so sweei. arid he was very pretty, bin lie 
was so difficult to manage! One afternoon, after Leonore discovered 
the remains of the salad spinner, she gave Ernesto a new nickname, 
"I he Devil Dog." 

One morning, George called his daughter at work. 

"Hello?" 

"Albertine! Where have you been?" 

"I've been working. Dad. You can't imagine how crazy it is here!" 
"Albertine, you musl come home and meet the Devil Dog!" 
"What kind of dog?" 

The next weekend, Albenine came to visit. She was very sur- 
prised to see her parents' Classic Six. The Devil Dog had completely 
redecorated. 

"What have you let this dog do to your apartment?" cried Allien inc. 
"It's a little better. You should have seen it yesterday," answered 
Leonore. 

"There's no place to sit!" 

"Just put a magazine down first." 

"Are you two insane?" 

"Of course not. We're just adjusting, Don't take your gloves off, 
honey; he'll eat them." 

Albertine took a long look at the Devil Dog. 

"You are coming home with me!" she exclaimed. And she scooped 
up Ernesto and hauled him out of the Classic Six. She carried him into 
the elevator, out oi the Harding Arms, down East End Avenue and 
into a taxi. 

The cabdriver did not like Ernesto's looks. 

"Is he trained?" he asked Albenine. 

"Not yet, but he will bel" said Albertine in a very deep, firm voice. 
Ernesto barked. 

Albertine's apartment was not a Classic Six. It was not even a 
Classic Two. It was a Classic One with an alcove. At first, Ernesto 
thuught it might contain some interesting toys, but Albertine did not 
let him touch anything. 

"You are going to the bathroom," declared Albertine. The next thing 
Ernesto knew, lie was being given a bath. He tried to run out, but 
Albertine's bathroom was too small. He had barely jumped from the 
bathtub when he almosl landed in the toilet. 

32 The Mind s Eye 



Celia Montgomery 

"You won't be smelling up my apartment," threatened Albertine. 

When the bath was finished, Albertine dried Ernesto oil and left 
him in the bathroom, She closed the door. Ernesto howled and howled, 
but Albertine did not open the door. He could hear her talking on the 
phone in the other room. "Oh, hi, Rudolf! No, I'm so sorry, Maybe 
another night? I have to train my parents' Devil Dog," 

An hour passed. Ernesto could smell food on the other side of the 
door. He whimpered, but Albertine did not relent. Ernesto tried to 
chew on the soap. It tasted awful. 

After several hours, Albenine approached the door. "Devil Dog? 
Are you ready for your first lesson?" 

Ernesto threw himself at the door and yelped madly. 

"1 guess not. 11 you were ready lot your lesson, you would be 
more polite. I'll come back later," 

Ernesto could hear Albertine dialing the phone. 

"Rudolf, I might have time for a quick drink in the neighborhood." 

Ernesto began to cry. 

After about an hour, Albertine returned to her apartment. "Devil 
Dog? Are you ready for your lesson?" 

Ernesto was too tired and hungry to respond. Albertine opened 
the door. Ernesto jumped up. 

"Sit! " said Albertine. Ernesto jumped again. Albertine closed the 
door again. She decided to watch a rerun of The Wesl Wmg. 

Ernesto was in despair! Albenine was horrible! He missed George 
and herniate, terribly. Albertine's bathroom had no soft place to sit 
down. She had even taken all the towels away. 

When her show was over, Albertine approached the door. "Devil 
Dog, are you ready to sit?" 

Ernesto waited and sat. 

One week later, Albertine returned to the Harding Arms. Felipe 
could barely believe his eyes! "Is thai cocker spaniel Ernesto?" 
"Ernesto," said Albertine. "shake hands with Felipe." 
Ernesto raised a paw. 

On the elevator, Albertine quickly taught Ernesto how to press 
button numberl4. George andLeonore were waiting at the front door. 
"Have you brought back our little devil?" asked Leonore. 
Ernesto trotted up to greet his owners. 
"Sit," said Albenine. 



The Mind's Eye 33 



Cetia Montgomery 



George gasped as Ernesto sat by the door. Then Ernesto showed 
George and Leonore all the things he had learned at Albertine's apart- 
ment, tie sat. He rolled over. He fetched George's slippers, he barked 
when Leonore left the stove on, he took a shower by himself, he an- 
swered the buzzer by the front door, he dialed 91 1 if anyone fell down. 

From that day on, Ernesto was a good dog! George and Leonore 
took him everywhere — to the park, to the dry cleaner's, even to Le 
Bernardin. Everywhere he went, he was admired by George and 
Leonore's acquaintances; and best of all, neither he nor George and 
Leonore were ever lonely. But Albertine did suffer some, since her 
patents no longer called her quite so frequently. 



34 The Mind's Eye 



Inequities in Higher 
Education: The Experiences 
of State College and Little Ivy 
Students 



or a long lime, I've wondered why LJif level of academic moii- 



vation among students at State College' wasn't higher. About 



L live years ago, I examined the results of a questionnaire that 
our entering students lilled out, the same one that first-year students 
throughout the country answered. I quickly skimmed the findings and 
was struck by one piece of data. Fur career aspirations, more of our 
malt' freshmen chose "police officer" than chose "lawyer." Not want- 
ing to judge the comparative value of either occupation, or downplay 
the role of personal happiness in choosing a career, I wondered why 
more of the young men didn't choose a field that called for postgradu- 
ate education, which offered higher income, more prestige, greater 
access to power and the possibility of influencing public policy. 

And that wasn't, the case just for the males who were entering 
State College. The same data set indicated that the occupational out- 
comes anticipated by first-year female students reflected similar ex- 
pectations as far as graduate education, income, prestige and power 
were concerned. The women, for example, much more frequently 
chose entry-level careers in the areas of education and the helping 

A pseudonym tor a small stale college in rural western Massachusetts. The data discussed 
below come Irom the Cooperative Insrirutional Research Program (CIHP) survey tor 1996. 



BY MAYNARD SlilDER 




The Mind's Eye 35 



Maynard seider 



professions, bypassing the possibility of continuing their education to 
pursue advanced work or management positions in those two areas. 

I reasoned that if an 18-year-olri had already decided on an occu- 
pation that didn't, demand graduate work or require an outstanding 
undergraduate record, then that decision might translate directly into 
a narrowing of the student's academic options and a lowering of the 
student's educational motivation. Why spend an extra hour in (he 
library, why write a second or third draft of the paper, why come to 
office hours with questions on the reading, why try out new courses, 
possible new majors, if the goal already decided upon requires no more 
than a reasonably gnod record and a bachelor's degree? 

I realized that to fully understand the lower motivation, f needed 
to learn more about the precolkge experiences of State College stu- 
dents. Thus. 1 began a research project in which I interviewed stu- 
dents and analyzed their written educational autobiographies. I have 
collected data on nearly 100 State College students covering their el- 
ementary, middle and high school memories. To widen the scope ol 
my research and to provide a comparative perspective, 1 have also 
interviewed 16 students attending two of the most prestigious private 
liberal arts colleges in the country, both located in the same geographical 
area as State College. In discussing these findings, I have conflated 
both of these schools, which are remarkably similar in student back- 
ground, wealth of resources and internal dynamics, into one college, 
which I call Little Ivy. 

THE POWER OF SOCIAL CLASS 

1 begin with two major assumptions. First, social class is the el- 
ephant in America's living room, hilly in evidence but often ignored; 
and, second, our schools add to the haze that keeps us from seeing the 
elephant. We are told, alter all, that all of us, no matter our status at 
birth, can advance and moke it in America if we work hard, plan for 
the future, take advantage of our educational opportunities and catch 
a little luck. In essence, that's the Horatio Alger story or the promise of 
the American Dream (Cuadraz), 

Engendered by educational, political and media elites, this power- 
ful belief finds support in the context of American individualism. It 
assumes that one's own merit and motivation can conquer all, regard- 
less of one's position in the social structure. In fact, it often assumes 

36 The Mind's Eye 



Maynard Seider 



that structural inequities do not exist, that oppression has vanished. 
One leading mainstream historian of American education, Diane 
Ravitch, simply brushes off any other approach, and asks: "What does 
class analysis have to do with education when we live in a classless 
society?" (Maeedo XIV) 

Unlike Ravitch, 1 argue that we do, indeed, live in a class society 
and that our class position plays a major role in our life chances. Since 
Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis' pathbreaking Schooling in Capitalist 
America, an entire generation of economists, historians and sociolo- 
gists have investigated the role of schooling in maintaining the struc- 
ture of American society (Karen; Aronowitz). For these researchers, 
the concept of "social reproduction" refers to the process by which 
each social class tends to reproduce its next generation, or, as British 
ethnographer Paul Willis put it, 'how working class kids get working 
class jobs." Beyond the most obvious economic inequit ies that charac- 
terize neighborhood public schools (Ko/.ol), investigators have exam- 
ined more subtle systems of tracking and hidden curririilums 
(MacLeod). 2 

Most of that research has focused on schooling from kinder- 
garten through high school, though the college years hold no less 
importance. The class backgrounds and class-associated schooling 
that students bring with them into higher education help perpetuate 
the stark class inequalities we face, inequities that colleges and uni- 
versities intensify. 3 

' 1 begin by defining "class," probably the most contested concept in 
social science, and one subject to enormous ideological struggle in 
politics and popular culture. From my perspective, class (Zweig) is best 
understood by examining one's position relative to power in the soci- 
ety, particularly in the workplace. Thus, members of the tipper class 
have high management or professional positions at work where they 

1 Tracking refers To the segregation of students in different sections of the same class, 
allegedly based on ability but often more associated with social class. The hidden cur- 
riculum refers to the traits valued in mainstream American schooling, such as a middle- 
class vocabulary, a particular speaking style and a gendcr-specilic mode of behavior 
(Bernstein: Bourdieu andPasseron; Finn). For an analysis of these dynamics at work in 
a contemporary high school, see Urantlinger. 

' Ineiiuities due to sexism, racism and ageism also abound in higher education, but the 
loo-oltcn-unexamined issue of class is my focus here 

The Mind's Eye 37 



MaynarJ Sevier 



tell others what to do. They rank in the top one percent in the U.S. in 
their ownership of wealth and income and are generally highly edu- 
cated, often with graduate and professional degrees, after receiving 
undergraduate degrees from elite private colleges. Members of the 
working class, whether white-, blue- or pink-collar, are supervised at 
work, have little wealth other than a car and perhaps a home and 
seem as likely to be a high school graduate as a college graduate, and 
if the latter, a graduate of a public institution. The kind of security that 
characterizes upper-class life does not exist for members of the work- 
ing class: "To be in the working class is to be in a place of relative 
vulnerability — on the job, in the market, in politics and culture" (Zwcig 
1 3). Members of the middle class, in the middle of the power dynamic, 
may have some independence, have some supervisory duties, but may 
also be subject to the authority of others higher up on the chain of 
command. Thus, the middle class would include within it small busi- 
ness owners and supervisors, managers and professionals. 

Inequities in higher education mirror those found inK-12 school- 
ing, with the greatest resources, highest prestige and most significant 
connections to be found in the Ivy League and its smaller college 
counterparts (Domhoff), places where the children of the upper class 
and upper middle class predominate. Not surprisingly, working-class 
and poor college attendees are disproportionately found in under- 
funded community and state colleges. Those stark economic and 
social factors clearly contribute to social reproduction, but in this 
article I want to highlight two of the more subtle social and psy- 
chological factors that affect equity and mobility— "entitlement" and 
the "hidden injuries of class." 

Entitlement (Coles) refers to a sense of confidence that children of 
the upper class learn, an easy acceptance of the knowledge that their 
present security and future status stand assured. Time and again, they 
receive cues from their parents, their extended family and their peers 
that they will make it, This is not to say that they don't have doubts. 
01 course they do. But their sense ol self, of their merit and capability, 
and their experience in dealing with others outside their family, espe- 
cially with authority figures such as doctors, lawyers, clergy and teach- 
ers, bring them a confidence in pursuing what they perceive as rightly 
theirs. 

For children of the working class, a much different pattern emerges. 
38 The Mind's Eye 



Maynard Seider 

Their families' economic status and income insecurity leads to no sense 
of entitlement.' 1 On the one hand, their parents wish them the best 
and hope that they will move up in class, find less physically demand- 
ing work that offers them prestige and a higher standard of living- 
Working-class parents see schooling as the medium for their children 
to move up, to live out the American Dream, On the other hand, 
these same parents feel angry and jealous of those occupying higher 
class positions. They often question whether the more abstract work 
of the upper classes is, in fact, real work. While they encourage their 
children to climb the ladder to success, they show some contempt for 
those occupations that guarantee that success. While they support their 
children in their goal of mobility, they may also feel a sense of betrayal 
when their children reject their own occupations. While they tell 
their children to do what it takes to be upwardly mobile, they pres- 
sure their kids to stay close to home, at least in the same neighbor- 
hood. These contradictory demands produce "hidden injuries of class" 
(Sennett and Cobb) for the generation coming of age. Members of 
that generation feel the bind, damned if they do and damned if they 
don't. Lowering one's aspirations may well be a rational response to 
that conundrum. 

SIX CASE STUDIES 

Let us examine the educational journeys of six college students, 
three of diverse class backgrounds who attend Little Ivy, and three from 
State College of roughly similar backgrounds.' Their stories, and the 
comparisons between them, help illustrate the power ot class and par- 
ticularly the concepts of "entitlement" and "the hidden injuries of class." 6 
4 As entitlement brings with it a strong sense of confidence, an absence of il suggests 
internal doubts, uncertainties and low self-esteem. See Heridecn for a study of commu- 
nity-college students and self-esteem. 

'For the most part, the words of the State College students come from written educa- 
tional autobiographies and those of the little Ivy students come from interviews. Thus, 
one can't easily compare the articulate nature of their responses, as the State College 
group had more time to think about, organize and work on theit responses. (Among 
these ease studies, there arc two exceptions: Jason, from Little Ivy, but a student in my 
class, did write his educational autobiography, and Gina, from State College, wrote her 
educational autobiography and was also interviewed by me.] 

"Zweigenhaft and Domhoff also make use of these two concepts in their analysis of the 
experiences of black working-class students in elite prep school environments. 



The Mind's Eye 39 



Maynard Seider 

Let me begin wiih Jason's story. A few years ago, Jason, 7 a student at 
Little Ivy, en rolled in an upper-level sociology class I was teaching at State 
College. Jason grew up in an upper-class Midwestern family that sent 
both him and his brother to New England prep schools. Jason was 
attentive, respectful of others and well aware of the sensitive issues 
we were discussing, as well as the social class differences within the 
classroom. He wrote exceptionally well, with style, content and criti- 
cal analysis significantly better than what f was used to. 

I had assigned an oral presentation toward the end of the semes- 
ter, in which students had to summarize a chapter in the text and 
critically evaluate the author in five specific areas. State College stu- 
dents generally carry out such an assignment in a mechanical fashion, 
presenting the summary and then the analysis. They usually spend 
too much time in summary and too little in critical analysis. As Jason's 
classmates made their presentations, I listened and wrote comments 
to myself about their performances. 

Since the students tended to make their presentations in a pre- 
dictable manner, it was easy for me to follow their work and to grade 
theni. I wrote up my evaluation for each of them and, at the last class 
of the semester, asked them to comment on what I had written. Jason 
had made a clear and interesting class presentation, but f had been 
disappointed in what f saw as its incompleteness. He ended with the 
summary but didn't carry out the critique, f spelled this out in my 
evaluation and graded him C minus. 

In his self-evaluation, Jason responded in some detail. As 1 read it, 
I was stunned. Jason disagreed with my evaluation. In the past, other 
students had also disagreed, typically by complaining about my grad- 
ing. Jason expressed something very different, something, in fact, that I 
had never received from a student before. He carefully explained why 
my grading was wrong, even suggesting that I hadn't listened well! 

I did not make a list, a, b, e, d, e, and recite these "findings" 
monotonously. But if you had listened to my presentation, 
you would have realized that the full content of these "guide- 
lines" was present. 



7 For reasons of confidentiality. I have changed the njmcs and other nonesseillial iden- 
tifying characteristics of tile students. 



40 The Mind's Eye 



Maynard Seidcr 



Jason proceeded to go through each of the guidelines, indicating how 
he not only covered them but critically dealt with each. He closed 
as follows: 

I hope you can see now that I did in fact have the guidelines 
in mind when I prepared my presentation. I understand that 
you wanted a presentation, not a book report. I tried to make 
my talk interesting and avoid the choppiness created by fol- 
lowing an outline. I urge you to reconsider my grade. 

And he was right. I looked back over my notes and what he had 
written, and realized thai he had integrated the critical points within 
Ihe summary itself. I, who had been so accustomed to students' tack- 
ing on the points after the summary, had not noticed Jason's integra- 
tive style. Embarrassed, t recognized my mistake and wrote Jason a 
note, thanking him for his explanation and changing his grade. 

Jason made his case in a straightforward manner, with evidence 
and logic. He displayed certitude, perhaps even bordering on arro- 
gance: "If you had listened to my presentation, you would have real- 
ized that the full content of these 'guidelines' was present." Jason wrote 
this way not only because he was an excellent student and a bright 
young man but because of his own sense of entitlement. 8 

Working-class and lower-middle-class students tend to enroll at 
State College because of its low cost and its location, not far from home. 
For most students, a specific, desired academic program or an intellec- 
tual passion does not figure into the mix. Nor do most students expect 
more from the college than a bachelor's degree, a path to entry- level 
employment, or access to a later master's degree. 
'During the semester that Jason attended my class, our interactions were friendly, 
both in anil out of class. He e-mailed me once during the term lo ask lo be 
excused frum thai day's meeting, as another class's assignment had led him lo a 
university library several hours away and it would be very difficult to get back in 
lime. I responded, telling him that i( would be an excused absence. After the 
course ended, I twice tried to reach Jason, once by e-mail and once by voice 
mail, as 1 wanted to talk with him further about my research. In neither case did 
he respond- I'm not sure why. He may have still been angry at my initial evalu- 
ation of his oral performance Or, perhaps, now that he was finished with the 
course (he did receive an A), he didn't need me anymore. Or maybe he was loo 
busy. Normally, when t contact one of my students, certainly twice, they do 
respond. Cranled, Jason wasn't one of my students, in fact, maybe that was the 
point of his nonresponse. 

The Mind's Eve 41 



Maynard Seider 

In many ways, Mary is typical. She attended the community col- 
lege in her hometown and then transferred to State College, just 40 
minutes away. At State College, Mary maintained a B average but 
tended to be quiet in her classes, even small-sized ones. She looked 
ahead to a job in the human services, in the same geographical area as 
the college. Yet even toward the end of her senior year, Mary had not 
yet secured future employment. 

Mary's mother, a single mom, always supported her academically, 
but in high school, Mary focused on her friends and after-school job, 
not her school work. 

I just went to school to see my friends and because 1 had to. 
My freshman year I was placed in a college prep. English class 
that I felt was too difficult for me. None of my dose friends 
were in this class so I felt like I didn't belong there. I asked 
my guidance counselor to place me in an easier English class 
and she refused to do so. So in return I went out of my way 
to prove that it was too hard for me by purposely failing the 
class. ... 1 had an attitude then. ... I didn't do any work. 1 
didn't read ... so I ended up in summer school. 

Mary once took a summer job at the factory where her mother 
worked, She recalls the women factory workers' relating to the college 
kids: 

They used to tell us all the time . . . keep going to college, get 
good grades, because you don't want to be doing this lor the 
rest of your life; and at the same time, they used to put [the 
boss| down, because he had a college education and he just 
sits in his office and pushes a pencil, and we're out here do- 
ing the work. At (he same time, they try to tell us to get a 
college education so we don't have to have jobs like they did. 
It's kind of weird. They're sending us mixed signals. They're 
telling us to be like him, but then condemning him for what 
he's doing. 

During her senior year in high school, Mary enrolled in a work- 
study program. She alternated between working in a paper factory 
and attending school, and since the "courses designed for this pro- 
gram were so easy 1 actually made the honor roll for the first time 



42 The Mind's Eye 



Maynard Seider 



since fifth grade." But Mary began to question the value of the pro- 
gram and the worth of the skills it might offer. She left the program 
after two months, finished school and tried a variety of part-time jobs 
after graduation. 

There were reatly no full-time jobs that I was qualified for. 
This was probably the most significant reason that f decided 
to go to college. There was no way I was going to make five 
dollars an hour lor the rest of my life. I knew that f had to 
gain some skills in order to make more money. 

Many State College students, particularly first-generation' stu- 
dents, don't begin to think seriously of college until the very end of 
their high school career. By that time, their options are limited, as 
they haven't taken the right courses, know comparatively little about 
the college process and tend to view college as a necessary post-high- 
school experience to get a decent job. 

Adolescents, no matter their class background, value peer rela- 
tionships. When Jason left Iris Midwestern hometown and public school 
to attend prep school in New England, he joined a new circle of friends 
with similar class backgrounds, enormous cultural capital" 1 and the 
same academic goals, His private school prepared him well, both in 
the classroom and in extracurricular activities. In stark contrast to the 
experiences that State College students have had with public school 
guidance counselors, what particularly stands out for Jason is the col- 
lege preparation that he personally received: 

Our college counselor probably spent an average of five huurs 
in one-on-one counseling with each student, f can remember 
many extended visits with him, sorting through different is- 
sues surrounding my decisions. I was very interested in at- 
tending Little Ivy very early on, largely in part because my 
father attended, but the counselor would not just leave it at 
that. He insisted that I look at other schools ... so r inter- 
viewed at about six or seven similar schools. ... I remember 
the preparations for these visits were quite intense; we had 

"First generation refers to the fact that their parents did not graduate from college. 
They wilt Lie the first generation in their family to do so. 

•"Cultural capital broadly refers Hi the knowledge, language skills and insights that are 
necessary to make it in a specific educational environment IRourdieu and Passeron}. 



The Mind's Eye i"} 



Maynard Seider 



mock interviews, brainstorrned about good questions to ask, 
and even had some etiquette seminars. 

For many reasons, the path to the most elite liberal arts colleges 
proves to be much easier for children of the upper class, but a minor- 
ity of working-class youngsters do get there. One in seven students at 
Little Ivy reported annual family income of less than $40,000 (CIRP). 
An examination of the arduous path of a working-class student who 
made it to Little Ivy, with an economic background that corresponds 
to Mary's, will prove useful at this point. 

Gail grew up with her younger sister and parents in rural Oregon 
in a small town dominated by its largest employer, a paper mill. Her 
father runs a winding machine at the mill and her mother takes in 
day-care children at home. Gail had always been an excellent student 
and her parents tried to widen her educational exposure with trips to 
the opera and summers at an academic camp. Her high school had no 
Advanced Placement (AP) courses and none of Gail's teachers ever 
mentioned a single libera I arts college to her. Her high school counse- 
lors simply encouraged the 25 percent of the class who went on 10 
college to enroll in local community or state colleges. 

Gail's mother made the Little Ivy connection for her after hearing 
a discussion of the U.S. News & World Report college rankings on a talk 
show. She had never heard of any of the top schools but immediately 
realized she wanted her daughter to enroll in one of them. She called 
the mother of one of Gail's friends and soon Gail and two other stu- 
dents had formed a study group. They combined resources to buy col- 
lege research books and to study for the SAT exams. Gail rememhers 
her mother's going through the Fiske college guide and ripping out all 
the pages with live-star academic schools and saying, "You may apply 
to schools from this list. Choose eight to visit and five to apply to." 
During the spring of her junior year, Gail went on a college tour: 

That was a big deal because my family never takes trips. It 
was just nice, being with my dad. It was a huge expense, 
huge sacrifice for my family. We flew to Chicago, rented a 
car and drove everywhere — the Midwest, Maine, Massachu- 
setts, New York. 

The absence of much travel typifies the experiences of most working- 
class students. If they do travel, it tends to be to nearby states, and 
certainly not outside the United Slates. 



44 The Mind's Eye 



Maynard Seider 



Gail also benefited from a friendship she had developed with an 
older girl she met at summer camp, a relationship that her mother 
helped cultivate, Dative), from a more affluent and formally educated 
family that lived out of town, liked Gail and gave her advice about 
college preparation. As Danyel helped mentor Gail, Gail aided the two 
other students in her local study group, both a year behind her in 
school. 

As it turned out, Gail went on to do well at Little Ivy, but her 
transition there did not come easily. The other students were more 
urban, more sophisticated, had much more spending money and shared 
a vocabulary that seemed lo her like a foreign language. As for her 
academic preparation, 

I was very unprepared, I'd sit in class and have no idea what 
[the professorj was talking about. I'd try to read the books, ft 
was like reading something in another language I had never 
studied before. . . . Before t came to Little Ivy I had never 
written a paper. ... I never had a reading assignment because 
our school didn't have enough hooks for everyone so it wasn't 
fair to assign reading when you couldn't take the book home. 
My school didn't offer calculus. Everyone in my calculus class 
at Little Ivy had taken it in high school and so the professor 
went through it quickly. I should have dropped calculus. It 
never occurred lo me thin yon could drop a course [emphasis 
added]. My mentality was, if you're doing poorly, you should 
try to do better, 

During that first semester, Gail's professors treated her as it she 
simply weren't trying hard enough. And Gail didn't know thai coun- 
selors were available. She learned how to ask her fellow students for 
advice, being careful to work her queries into the conversation so that 
her ignorance didn't show. She remembers one sociology class when 
she grew angry over the negative stereotypes her classmates had ver- 
balized about people on welfare. In that case, her sympathetic professor 
had a long talk with her and, alter learnitrg about her background, be- 
came her mentor and supporter. Gradually, Gail felt, more confident, 
her academic skills developed and her papers and grades improved. 

For students with an upper-class lineage, the transition to Little Ivy 
goes more smoorhly. Karen's father went to Exeter and Harvard, her 



The Mind's Eye 45 



Maymrd Slider 



mother to Smith, and they both graduated from law school. Her father 
works for a private law firm and her mother serves as a federal judge. 

Karen grew up in Washington, D.C., and attended the same Quaker 
private school from prekindergarten through high school. Sensitive to 
class issues and Schooling, Karen states, "1 want to send my kids to 
public schools, but public schools in D.C. are not excellent." As with 
other students from affluent backgrounds, Karen seems well aware of 
the choices to which her class position entitles her. 

At her high school, the highly competitive parents of the students 
often clashed with the official values of the school. As Karen recalled. 

The parents are all very focosed on academics, so you have 
that plus the idea that you want everyone to be learning 
equally. They still struggle trying to mix the two things . . . 
[but] these Washington parents . . . are just so driven. Their 
kids are exact replicas of them being so driven, very focused. . , . 
They want the best teachers so they have started to make 
more AP classes and Honors classes. 

A serious swimmer, Karen competed on the club level where swim- 
mers have their goals set on the Olympics. In high school, she prac- 
ticed nine times a week for a total of more than 23 hours. Besides the 
cost of pool time and instruction, such a rigorous sports schedule leaves 
little time for paid work after school and on weekends, a luxury that 
not all middle-class students and few working-class students could 
afford. 

Besides her rigorous swimming schedule. Karen wrote for the stu- 
dent newspaper and volunteered at a housing project in an after-school 
program. At Little Ivy, she has competed on the swimming team and 
on crew. She likes the small-college atmosphere and the availability 
of her professors. When interviewed, she was majoring in psychology 
but was thinking about switching to economics and combining either 
subject with Spanish. She planned on studying in Spain the following 
semester. 

Karen feels "at home" at Little Ivy, saying that "the kids here are 
very similar to kids that I have spent a lot of my life around." She 
would like Little Ivy to be more diverse; she says it is "too white, too 
upper-middle-class, but within that you still find so many great people." 
Note that Karen refers to many of her classmates as "upper-middle 

46 The Mind's Eye 



Maynard Seider 



class." noi "upper-class," a common practice of students of objectively 
upper-class backgrounds. Also, while Karen does express some criti- 
cism of Little Ivy, she does appreciate what it has meant to her. 

Thirty-five percent of Little Ivy students come from families with 
annual incomes of $t50,000 or more and more than 50 percent come 
from families wilh at least $100,000 in annual income. Only 12.5 per- 
cent of State College lamilies (CIRP) are in the $100,000 category, 
about the same as American families nationwide (Marger 33). Educa- 
iionally, twice as many Little Ivy parents have college degrees as State 
College parents and Little Ivy parents are five times more likely to 
possess a graduate degree than State College parents. More than 20 
percent of Little Ivy fathers own businesses or are business executives; 
one in eight are lawyers; slightly more than ten percent are medical 
doctors or dentists; and four percent hold college teaching or adminis- 
trative positions. About hall as many Little Ivy mothers hold compa- 
rable positions. 

Three generations of Ralph's family have grown up in the small 
city where State College is located. His mother went to business school 
and his dad received a bachelor's degree from State College. Ralph 
attended a neighborhood school in a poor and working-class district. 
In hindsight, he recalls the tracking that occurred in his elementary 
school, a phenomenon he says correlated with class background. 

A good student, all As and Bs, Ralph first came across students 
from higher income groups in high school when students from more 
affluent families from neighboring towns began to attend his regional 
school. Meanwhile, many of the elementary students from his neigh- 
borhood either dropped out or transferred to the regional vocational 
high school. 

Ralph bad always intended to go to college and, because of some 
very high family medical bills, had assumed he would attend State 
College. He met with his high school counselor only twice and "she 
never made any suggestions or offered any help or did anything to 
encourage or discourage me." He attributes her lack of interest to his 
near certainty that he would attend State College, but as "I look back, 
it may have been my neighborhood school background. Since there 
were only two boys left in my class from there, it was obvious that 
most of those students were not college bound.'' 

While Ralph appreciated the academic preparation he received in 

The Mmd % Eye 47 



Mayiiard Seider 

high school, he decried ihe extracurricular activities and other ameni- 
ties his financially strapped school lacked. He played on the school's 
baseball team and traveled around the area, noticing the conditions in 
other schools: 

I remember my first trip to South County High School. The 
interior of the school was very well decorated with plants 
and paintings. Their halls were carpeted, there were com- 
puter terminals in the hallways, and it was spotlessly cleaned. 
It reminded me more of a hotel than a school- 
Ralph enrolled at State College as a finance major, a goal he bad 
held for some lime. He saved money by living at home, though he had 
considered attending the large state university 55 miles away. 

While they had an excellent business program . . . [ didn't 
think I would enjoy such a large institution. State College 
seemed to have an excellent business program, classes were 
small, the campus was compact and was for me very inex- 
pensive. The only drawback is their very limited budget. Their 
facilities arc in poor shape, ... In most of the classrooms the 
shades or blinds don't work. There are tiles missing from the 
floors everywhere. There are many stained and missing ceil- 
ing tiles, and the science labs haven't been renovated since 
they were built. They have very little money for technical 
improvements, and they offer very little in the way of social 
activities. 

Ralph's high school friends went to private colleges such as Colgate 
and Rochester Institute of Technology. He heard about their up-to- 
date equipment and facilities and expansive extracurricular activities. 
But Ralph was also savvy about the "networking opportunities" his 
Iriencls enjoyed, what sociologists call "social capital." 

Students at public colleges usually share a room and activi- 
ties with students from similar class backgrounds. This limits 
their network of potential employers and contacts to people 
of the same social class. Students at private colleges are often 
sharing their rooms and activities with people who have more 
extensive social backgrounds, and more influential networks. 
For example, a student at State College might have a room- 



48 The Mind's Eye 



Maynard Seider 



mate whose parents are more likely to be working class, blue 
collar people with jobs as fireman, nurse, construction worker, 
small business owner. But the students at Little Ivy are apt to 
have a roommate whose parents are the CEO of General 
Motors, doctors or lawyers, etc. This allows them to build a 
better network of contacts when it comes time to find em- 
ployment or continue their education. It is who they are rubbing 
elbows with more than the quality of education which allows 
them to move up in social status. 

At the time that Ralph wrote these words, he was a junior arid 
looked forward to a job in finance that would provide him with "a 
reasonable salary as well as security in the form of insurance, vacation 
and retirement benefits." While Ralph will have a while-collar job, 
unlike his grandfather and father, I'm not sure I will be guaranteed 
any better of a lifestyle or earlier retirement than they had." He hones 
in on the reality of educational inflation, noting that his grandfather 
possessed a high school education, his dad an associate's degree when 
he became a supervisor and Ralph will soon hold a bachelor's degree. 
He wonders, "Will my children need a graduate degree to stay at this 
level? Is education inflating with the economy? I believe it is and 
therefore I don't really expect to live at a higher socioeconomic status 
than I do right now." 

Ralph assesses the economic and social landscape in a clear and 
reasoned fashion. He shows no anger nor does he make any sugges- 
tions for change in his educational autobiography. Although asked to, 
he neglects to discuss his goals for the long-term future as well as his 
current political views. In avoiding the latter, Ralph appears to be 
making a siaiement similar to the vast majority of State College stu- 
dents, who engage in no political activity, except perhaps to vote. They 
seem alienated and cynical toward the political process, unable to imag- 
ine that group activity or social movements of any kind might change 
the status quo. In fact, in this regard, the State College students 
appear remarkably like their Little Ivy counterparts, who also seem 
disconnected from the political process and see the future in very 
individualistic terms. 

Gina stands out as one of the best students I have observed at 
State College. An articulate writer and an energetic student, she plans 
to go to law school and eventually become a judge, Art only child, 



The Mind's Eye 49 



Maynard Sader 



Gina grew up in a working-class family 40 miles from State College. 
Neither her mother, a waitress, nor her father, an automobile me- 
chanic, attended college. Gina had always been an avid reader and an 
excellent student, and while her parents encouraged her to do well, 
they "never really talked to me about education." 

Gina was tracked into the top classes in middle and high school 
and became friends with her peers in those classes. They came from 
middle-class and wealthier families, and in many cases grew up with 
parents who had graduated from college. 

I can remember in my junior and senior year looking at colleges 
with my friends. We had guidance counselors, but in regards to 
college, they didn't really play much ot a role. They . . . never 

gave me any direr! input My parents were not very helpful. 

My father had little to say about college, except that 1 needed to 
go and I was going to go. My mother didn't understand really 
why i wanted to go and thought that the community college 
would be the best for me. It turned out that it would be the best 
for her. . , . She did not want me to go away. . . . 

Gina applied to the community college and to State College and, 
despite her mother's protestations, to a leading private liberal arts col- 
lege about 100 miles away. She received a $5000 scholarship there for 
the first year, but her mother "was very angry" about her decision and 
"did everything she could to stand in my way." Gina's father, on the ' 
other hand, encouraged her. but in the end her mother simply refused 
to sign the financial-aid forms— and that was the end of it. Years later, 
Gina still feels anger toward her mother, knowing that she missed "a 
great opportunity educationally and careerwise." 

Gina has maintained a 3.5 average throughout her college career 
while working about 30 hours a week." She has earned enough to 
buy her own home and plans to commute to a regional law school 

"Many Slate College students work significant numbers of hours while attending col- 
lege, cutting down on the time available [or extracurricular activities and for their own 
studies. During their senior year of high school, more than 60 percent of State College 
students worked more than ten hours a week, compared with about one-eighth of 
Little Ivy students. Fifty percent of the latter spent more than ten hours a week doing 
homework during their high school senior year, compared with only 13 percent of 
State College students (C1RP). 

50 The Mind's Eye 



Maynard Seider 



after graduation. Not surprisingly, Gina's mother opposes that deci- 
sion, but Giiia is independent enough now to go her own way. 

GINA AND JASON 

Coincidentally, Gina enrolled in the same class that Jason took 
with me and they ended up in a small discussion group where stu- 
dents shared their educational autobiographies. Their poignant re- 
sponses to each other's stories illustrate the power of ideology in the 
United States and, ultimately, how the American Dream finds wide 
acceptance. 

Jason begins: 

While [Gina's] parents were certainly aware ol the virtues of 
[her] attending college, Gina is fortunate to possess a great deal of 
self-motivation, and with this she was able to do very well in school 
and continue on to college [emphasis added] . 

[But] it was very disheartening to hear how Gina's college 
plans panned out. When she was accepted to a good, out-of- 
state school, her mother did not let her attend. While Gina 
shrugged this off as "not a big deal." it was ctear that she was 
very discouraged by this. While she is in a good job now and 
very close to her degree, it is clear that she would have liked 
a chance to go to the other school. I was disturbed by this, and 
at the same time grateful that my parents are so supportive of my 
interests. It is interesting to imagine how social reproduction theo- 
rists would view Gina's experience, since she was not held back by 
any social institutions that they normally cite, but instead by her 
parents [emphasis added]. 

in talking with her, I found myself much, more aware of my 
relative affluence. As I lold her about my prep school and 
answered her inquiry about the tuition there, I had a strange 
feeling come over me, sort of an ashamed feeling that i 
couldn't quite identify. It was frustrating to hear about how 
her hopes for college were tempered by her mother and her 
family's financial situation [emphasis added] while ... 1 was 
able to attend the institutions I aspired to without either of 
these constraints, 



The Mind's Eye 51 



Maynard Slider 



While Jason's comments reveal a caring, sensitive individual, one 
can also view them as downplaying the power of class-based social 
institutions. In lauding Gina {or her sell- motivation, Jason seems to 
be focusing on that factor as the main reason for upward mobility 
along with the help of supportive parents. He ignores the fact that 
while she is doing well, it is at a state college; that her "good job" is 
secretarial; and that while she has goals ol going in law school, it will 
be on a part-time basis at a regional school, one that will not give her 
access to significant mobility and power. 

Gina, in the same interaction, also ignores key economic and so- 
cial institutions. Instead, she stresses her own motivation and mini- 
mizes any disappointment she might have (mm opportunities' being 
unavailable to her. In comparing herself with Jason, Gina writes: 

Although we came from very different backgrounds, with dif- 
ferent opportunities. I do i'eel thai we had made the best of 
what we had. . . . [WJith strong willpower and the right en- 
couragement, anyone can break through the barriers |ol social 
reproduction], I know that I was one ol the exceptions. . . . 
Social reproduction can be overcome. 

The ways in which Jason and Gina present their own biographies 
and comment on each other's help explain the power of social repro- 
duction in the United States and the dominance of the individualistic, 
meritocratic ideology, internalized by young people of varying social 
classes. Gina can feel good for coming as far as she has (as, indeed, she 
should), and Jason can accept the good fortune of having supportive 
parents. Both of them, though, minimize the power of social and 
economic institutions that have impacted them. 
SOCIAL CLASS, HIGHER EDUCATION AND THE FUTURE 

Once the graduates leave State College and Little Ivy, they head out ill 
vastly different directions. More than SO percent of Little Ivy gradu- 
ates will begin graduate or professional school within five years. Some 
will work at the lop New York investment banking and consulting 
firms that frequent Little Ivy on recruitment missions. For those who 
take employment before graduate school, about two-thirds will be 
earning more than $25,000 a year, and over a third more than $35,000. 
At Little Ivy, a well-staffed Ca reer Counseling Center actively helps 

52 The Mind's Eye 



Maynard Seider 



students with internships and job interviews. With the Alumni Office, 
the center has developed a huge "network of loyalty," inure than 6000 
alumni who have pledged to advise their younger counterparts and to 
assist them with internships and postgraduate jobs. These alumni have 
helped the college build an endowment ol more than one and a half 
billion dollars, one of the highest endowment totals per student in the 
nation. The college has a program of paid internships in which stu- 
dents can spend a summer virtually anywhere in the country, work- 
ing in a field of their interest, uften with an alum. 

State College graduates, by contrast, usually start off in entry-level 
jobs in human services, education and business, though a fair number 
begin master's programs. State College networks tend to be much more 
localized and their alumni tend to he situated no higher than the 
middle-level positions of power. While internships prove to be popu- 
lar lor State College students, the vast majority of them are unpaid 
and the college offers no stipends. 

As Ralph stated earlier, credential inflation is a fact of life, as more 
and more young people find themselves working harder and moving 
faster to end up in roughly the same place. More and more students 
are attending, and graduating from, college, yet those numbers ex- 
teed the jobs that one really needs a college degree to master. We live 
in a class stratified society, one whose structure has remained remark- 
ably similar over the past century. Those in positions of power, those 
from the upper class, have a st rortg interest in maintaining this struc- 
ture and in passing on their power to their children, h should not be 
surprising that the schools that they at tend and subsidize should serve 
as institutions that perpetuate that structure. 

The entitlement, the cultural capital, the private school, the cor- 
porate recruitment and the alumni network — all of these work to send 
many a Little Ivy student on to the road to power. Recently, one of the 
school's football stars summed up his sense of class solidarity immedi- 
ately after leading his team to victory over its leading private liberal 
arts rival. Alter the opposing athletes shook hands at the end of the 
hard-fought game, he slated: 

Most of the kids who come to these schools are from the same 

background It's a matter of mutual respect. You leave it on 

the field. We'll probably see these guys in life — on Wall Street. 



The Mind's Eye 53 



lAaynarrf Slider 



The downturn in the economy since the second half of 2001 and 
the tightening labor market will, if anything, privilege Little Ivy gradu- 
ates even more, while working against State College students. During 
a seminar on future job prospects. Little Ivy's director of career coun- 
seling noted the smaller number of recruiters on campus since Sep- 
tember 1 lth, but still concluded that "we do not want to discourage 
students. If Little Ivy students cannot get jobs, I don't know who else 
can get jobs." 

A labor market specialist from the Little Ivy faculty also commented: 

In general, economic slowdowns hurt the least -educated and 
least well-off soonest and the most. From that perspective. 
Little Ivy students are likely to be somewhat more insulated 
than the general population from the economic downturn. I 
assume that a Little Ivy degree does help in the labor market, 
both because of its educational value and because of Little 
Ivy's extensive network of contacts. In addition, many little 
Ivy students come from backgrounds that provide them ca- 
reer contacts. Given these advantages, Liltie Ivy students will 
most likely suffer less from a recession than students from 
other schools. 

Just as most working-class people have seen their standard of liv- 
ing decline over the past quarter century (Zweig), access to higher 
education and mobility has also been constrained for their children 
since the mid-seventies. The great social movements of the 1 960s and 
early 1970s opened more doors and career paths for racial minorities, 
women and working-class students, but the corporate counterattack, 
Reagan revolulion and continuing political-corporate onslaught on 
social programs have taken their toll on public higher education. Higher 
education has become increasingly stratified. Escalating tuitions and 
fees, declining Federal and state grants, the privatization of the public- 
sector and a diminution of need-based assistance from prestigious lib- 
eral arts colleges have meant that working-class kids are more and 
more concentrated in community colleges and financially strapped stale 
colleges and universities, while the children of the managerial/profes- 
sional class and the upper class are even more disproportionately found 
in elite private institutions. 

Children of the working class know that they must move from 



Maynard Sekter 



the manual working ciass to what sociologist John Alberti calls "the 
paperworking class" to secure a place in the postindustrial society. If 
they grab a credential, an associate's or bachelor's degree, from a pub- 
lic college or university, it. may seem like upward mobility. And so 
working-class kids gel paperworking and entry-level jobs under the 
command of the managerial class, supervised by the sons and daugh- 
ters of the upper classes who attend elite colleges and universities. The 
working-class kids may blame themselves when they recognize the 
dead-end nature of their work and experience the difficulty of secur- 
ing a stable position with a living wage. They may just end up angry 
and bitter and blame new immigrants and the poor for their relatively 
low status in life. Some, however, may also see themselves as new 
frontiersmen riding the entrepreneurial wave of the future, and may 
even advance their economic and social status. 

ff they do grab on to that wave — and hang on — they will more 
likely be the exception that proves the rule. More and more, the rule 
seems to be that they will grow to accept, however grudgingly, their 
postgraduate status. And why not? They have been steadily social- 
ized — through a variety of academic, peer and family influences — from 
kindergarten through college to fill that role, and in early-2 Ist-century 
America, their class of origin and light cultural capital simply enforce 
that ending. 

What can we, as teachers, do? We need to remember the incred- 
ible potential that our students do have. But we also need to be fully 
cognizant of the processes of social reproduction that work to keep 
them in their place, and keep them from fully recognizing their po- 
tential. For them to grow to their fullest, they will have to question (if 
not rebel against) the system of social reproduction, inside and out- 
side the academy. As teachers, we have an obligation to work with 
them, to ask the questions that enable them to evaluate their past — 
both individual and social — to make sense of their present and to raise 
questions about the status quo. Can we work with them, share our 
tools, our critical thinking, and be tolerant of their false starts? Can 
we help them understand their backgrounds, motivations and aspira- 
tions? Can we listen to them and learn from them as we recognize the 
reciprocity of learning? 

Working with students on their own biographies, as they come to 
understand them in the context of their times and social institutions, 

Tin 7 Mind's Eye 55 



Maynard Seider 

oiler"; one step in that direction. If that collaboration works, our class- 
rooms will be reinvigoralcd and our students will grow. If they begin 
to realize that, their own biographies and journeys are significantly 
impacted by powerful economic and social institutions — if they make 
the link between their own "private troubles" and society's "public 
issues" (Mills) — all else is possible. If we don't help Ihem, the ideologi- 
cal haze will continue to obscure the elephant mall of our living rooms. 

Bibliography 

Alberti, John. "The Professor as Role Model: Challenging Myths of 
Class Mobility at a Working-class College." Radical Teacher 
44 (1995): 10-12. 

Aronowitz, Stanley. "Between Nationality and Class." Harvard Educa- 
tional Review 67 .2 (Summer 1997): 188-207. 

Bernstein, Basil, Class, Cades, and Control: "Theoretical Studies Toward 
a Sociology ol Language." New York: Schixkcn, 1975. 

Bourdieu, Pierre, and Jean-Claude Passeron. Reproduction in Education, 
Society, and Culture. 2nd ed. Londore Sage, 1990. 

Bowles, Samuel, and Herbert Gintis. Schooling in Capitalist America. 
New York: Basic Books, 1976, 

Brantlinger, Ellen, The Politics of Social Class in Secondary School: 

"Views ol Affluent and Impoverished Youth." New York: Teach- 
ers College, 1993. 

CIRP (Cooperative Institutional Research Program). Higher Education 
Research Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, 1 999. 

Coles, Robert. Privileged Ones: "The Well-off and the Rich in 
America." Boston: Little, Brown, 1977. 

Cuadraz, Gloria Holguin. "The Cbicana/o Generation and the Horatio 
Alger Myth." NEA Higher Education Journal XIII, 1 (Spring 1997): 
103-120. 

Domhoff, G. William. Who Rules America? Power and Politics. 4th ed. 

Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2002. 
Finn, Patrick. Literacy with an Attitude. Albany: State U of 

NY, 1999. 



56 The Mind's Eye 



Maynard Seider 



Heridecn, Penelope E. Policy, Pedagogy, and Social Inequality: "Commu- 
nity College Student Realities in Post-Industrial America." 
Westport, CT: Berginfr Garvcy, 1998. 

Karen, David. "Toward a Political-Organizational Model of Gatekeeping: 
The Case of Elite Colleges." Sociology of Education 63 (October 
1990): 227-240. 

Kozol, Jonathan. Savage Inequalities: "Children in America's Schools." 
New York: Crown. 1991. 

Macedo, Donaldo P. Literacies of Power. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1994. 

MacLeod, Jay. Ain't No Makhi' It: "Aspirations and Attainment in a 
Low-Income Neighborhood." Boulder, CO: Westview, 1995. 

Margcr, Martin N. Social Inequality: "Patterns and Processes." Moun- 
tain View, CA: Mayfield, 1999. 

Mills, C. Wright. The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford UP, 
1959. 

Sennett, Richard, and Jonathan Cobb. The Hidden Injuries of Class. New 
York: Knopf, 1972. 

Willis, Paul E. Learning to Labor: "How Working Class Kids Get Work- 
ing Class Jobs." New York: Columbia UP, 1981 (1977). 

Zweig, Michael. The Working Class Majority: "America's Best Kept 
mem." Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 2000. 

Zweigenhait, Richard, and G. William Domhoif. Blacks in the White 

Establishment: "A Study of Race and Class in America." New 
Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1991. 



The Mind's Eye 57 



Book Review 



Radical Surgery 

The Breast Cancer Wars: "Hope, Fear, and the Pursuit of a Cure in Twen- 
tieth-Century America" by Barron H. Lerner 
New York and Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001 

BY WILLIAM MONTGOMERY 



During much of the 20th century, the standard treatment 
for breast cancel, was the radical mastectomy. Inspired by 
German microscopic studies suggesting that cancer first spread 
from the point of origin to neighboring tissues and through the lym- 
phatic system, it was popularized in the United States during the early 
decades of the century by William Stewart Halsted. The procedure 
removed not only the breast and surrounding tissues but the lymph 
glands of the armpit and the underlying chest muscles, the pectoralis 
major and pectoralis minor. In Breast Cancer Wars, the physician and his- 
torian Barron Lerner examines the story of the Halsted procedure, as 
it came to be known, raising questions not only about the influence of 
science on medical procedure but also about the influence of patient 
preferences on the work of surgeons. 

Initially, patient preference played little role in treatment deci- 
sions; surgeons ruled in the operating room, and patients accepted 
i licit decisions — a state of affairs thai lasted until the 1970s. Lerner 
does not dwell un the issue, but, in fact, the broad authority he de- 
scribes was relatively new in Halsted's day, the product of dramatic 
innovations in science and tightening social discipline related to ex- 



58 The Mind's Eye 



William Montgomery 



panded industrialism. Until the late 19th century, the reputation and 
authority of physicians was low. Many American states did not even 
require that medical practitioners be licensed, with the result that 
medicine functioned more as a trade than as a profession. Practitioners 
with no degrees at all competed side by side with those with expen- 
sive European training, and patients shopped lor what pleased them. 
As a consequence, physicians were forced to adjust their therapies 
to the market; The bleeding, purging and blistering so characteris- 
tic ol early American medicine had died away as alternative practi- 
tioners, particularly the homeopaths, offered newly urbanized and 
educated Americans more agreeable cures. Despite the fact that medi- 
cal statisticians in France were finding no value in the old treatments, 
their work seems to have had little to do with the change that took 
place in the United States. American textbooks and professional pub- 
lications indicate that physicians clung stubbornly to the rationale for 
the ancient therapies: however, they dared not insist on them in prac- 
tice (Rothstein; Warner). 

Lerner's story of the Halsted procedure displays significant paral- 
lels to that earlier decline of a drastic therapeutic tradition. In the 
modern case, science did play a significant role, primarily through new 
standards of statistical practice and new knowledge about pathology. 
However, as in the 19th century, patient preferences also affected the 
outcome. Lemer is no relativist; he believes firmly in the importance 
of medical science, but he makes clear that science alone docs not 
guide our treatment choices. At every step in the debate, value prcicr- 
ences influenced what Halsted, his followers and his critics tried to do. 

From the first, there were significant concerns about the radical 
mastectomy. Loss of chest muscles left people with a hollow area in 
I he chest and a loss of physical function. The destruction of the lymph 
glands led to swelling and persistent pain in the affected arm. In the 
1920s, some physicians began to experiment with radiation therapy, 
sometimes in addition to a radical mastectomy, sometimes as an alter- 
native. In France, the prestige of Marie Curie encouraged physicians 
lo substitute radium implants for surgery. In Scotland, Robert 
McWhirter. who relied on radiation, could point to survival figures 
that rivaled those produced by surgeons using the Halsted procedure, 
though tissue damage from radiation took some of the bloom off his 
results. 



the Mind's Eye 59 



William Montgomery 



Despite such claims, most American surgeons remained unim- 
pressed by alternative therapies. Growing concerns about the safety of 
radiation made radical surgery seem safer, particularly in the light of a 
pathological tradition maintaining that cancer was a disease thai spread 
locally. However, some surgeons began to suspect that the situation 
was more complicated. Even with the most extensive surgery, the dis- 
ease still developed in many patients while others with less surgery 
survived quite nicely. Critics of radical surgery reasoned that the therapy 
was not really the primary key to survival: What really mattered more 
were the biological peculiarities of the disease. 

Unfortunately, the available statistical studies did not really sup- 
port the critics. The problem was their retrospective nature. Physi- 
cians looked back on patients they had treated in a particular way and 
totaled file successes and lailures. However, good statistical theory called 
lor a different procedure: A large number of patients should be as- 
signed to alternative treatments on a purely random basis. The idea 
was not popular with anybody. Surgeons long accustomed to exercis- 
ing authority felt that they understood the disease better than anyone 
else because they dealt with it daily in the examining room, the operat- 
ing room and the pathological laboratory. They did not like to think 
about the uncertainties surrounding their work, and they frequently 
assured their patients that radical mastectomies would cure their dis- 
ease. Furthermore, a physician owed patients the very best possible 
therapy. To deliberately employ an inferior therapy simply as part of 
an experiment seemed ethically improper. As one might expect, sur- 
geons who believed in radical mastectomies were contemptuous of 
the whole idea of randomized trials, but surgeons who opposed radi- 
cal surgery were equally contemptuous. George Crile, Jr., a leading 
opponent, was convinced by his own retrospective data that radical 
mastectomies were unnecessary, and he had no intention of putting 
his patients through such a procedure simply in order to score points 
with his opponents. 

Of course, the justification lor the Halsted procedure had never 
rested on statistics alone. Hence, the tide began to shift in the late 
1960s, when two brothers, surgeon Bernard Fisher and pathologist 
Edwin Fisher, performed experiments showing that cancer was car- 
ried by the hlood as well as the lymph. When a tumor metastasized, 
cancer cells were quickly transported all over the body. The Fishers' 

60 The Mind's Eye 



William Montgomery 



research called into question the theoretical strategy behind radical 
mastectomies and highlighted a new approach, chemotherapy, that 
attacked the disease wherever it appeared in the body. 

In the meantime, not only were the doctors changing but with 
the advent of popular feminism, the patients were changing, too. In 
1954, a wealthy New York woman named Terese Lasser founded Reach 
ro Recovery, an organization that assisted breast cancer patients in 
dealing with their illness and with the effects of radical mastectomies. 
The organization offered psychological support and practical advice 
about personal care, exercises, prostheses, clothing and marital rela- 
tions. Some doctors were very suspicious of the organization, fearing 
that it would tend to supplant the physician as a patient's principal 
source of advice. Some hospitals even tried to exclude the organiza- 
tion; however, Reach for Recovery was so popular with patients that 
it soon gained wide acceptance, tn practice, it soon did begin to do 
what conservative doctors feared — supplant them as advisors. Reach 
for Recovery did not initially oppose radical surgery, but it did insist 
that doctors pay more attention to what women wanted. 

In the 1970s, a number of feminist writers published personal mem- 
oirs of their experience with cancer, each in its own way critical of 
medical procedures. BabetteRnsmond, who rejected the conventional 
advice to have a radical mastectomy and eventually wound up getting 
a lumpectomy from Crile, wrote an account of the experience in which 
she emphasized how important it was for doctors to listen to patients 
and oiler them a reasonable selection of options. Even more outspo- 
ken than Rosmond was Rose Kushner, a journalist who specialized in 
medical issues. When she got a breast lump, she had to approach IS 
physicians before she round one willing to do the lumpectomy she 
wanted. One of her big targets was one-step mastectomies. The proce- 
dure at that time was for tire surgeon to perform a biopsy on an anes- 
thetized patient and, if it was positive, to proceed immediately to a 
radical mastectomy without consulting the patient. Kushner herself 
had insisted on being informed of the results of her biopsy before agree- 
ing to surgery, and she campaigned vigorously for all breast cancer 
patients to receive this consideration, Kushner was not committed to 
lumpectomies as such; what she really wanted was choice. 

tn 1971, Bernard Fisher and Umberto Veronesi obtained a grant 
to conduct randomized clinical trials of breast cancer therapy. The 

The Mind's Eye 61 



William Montgomery 



initial results indicated that radical mastectomies had no advantage 
over more limited surgery. The ten-year results appeared in 1985, 
showing identical survival rates for patients receiving radical mastec- 
tomies, simple mastectomies or simple mastectomies with radiation. 
In the same year, a different study showed that live-year survival rates 
for patients with lumpectomies were just as good as for those with 
radical mastectomies. Evert before the final report, physicians were 
already making the shift to less extensive surgery. In the late 1970s, 
when First Lady Betty Ford had breast cancer, she received a radical 
mastectomy, but just a few years later, Nancy Reagan had more lim- 
ited surgery. In 1979, Massachusetts passed legislation requiring that 
breast cancer patients receive a clear explanation of the therapeutic 
options available, and 16 other states soon followed suit. This did not 
mean that all patients started getting simple mastectomies or 
lumpectomies. The most common surgery was a modified operation 
in which lymph glands and perhaps one pectoral muscle were removed, 
thus providing a convenient compromise between statistical science 
on one hand and surgeons' and patients' desire for certainty on the 
other. 

Even this adjustment reveals a tension between research results 
and personal concerns that affects what doctors do. We are accus- 
tomed to think that modern medicine is a triumph of scientific 
achievement, and so it frequently is. Nevertheless, in Breast Cancer 
Wars, Lerner describes a therapy more drastic than anything ever 
employed in early- 19th-century medicine, a therapy almost univer- 
sally adopted by the most highly regarded healers of modern surgery 
lor reasons that seemed well grounded not onfy in laboratory re- 
search but in statistical outcomes, and yet a therapy that has widely 
lost its appeal among doctors and patients alike. 

When doctors moved away from the Halsted procedure, they were 
not simply adopting a different therapy; they were accepting a differ- 
ent relationship with their patients. Traditional professional standards 
and privileges gave way to market demand, in this case with the bless- 
ing of science; but similar transformations have occurred in the very 
U'cth of scientific opposition. (See, for example, the bitter debate over 
medical therapy that broke out in the 1980s when AIDS activists chal- 
lenged FDA and N1H researchers over the role of randomized clinical 
trials in the testing Of AIDS drugs. Suddenly, statistical science, which 



62 The Mind's Eye 



Wt&tam Monlipmery 



had played such an innovative role in evaluation of cancer surgery, 
began W look like a bottleneck in the process of approving of new 
drugs, another constraint on the market [Epstein].) We have by no 
means reverted to the standards of the Jacksonian era, when some 
states rejected even the idea of medical licensing and patients reshaped 
the therapeutic landscape as they shopped among rival sects; but the 
parallels arc unmistakable. At the very least, we have moved away 
from the unmistakable craft authority that prevailed in the 1950s. Breast 
Cancer Wars is more than a story about cancer treatment; it is a story 
about the persistent American debate concerning standards versus 
choice, security versus liberty, George Crile, Jr.. and Rose Kushner 
may seem like unlikely agents of the market economy, but in the con- 
text of medical practice, that is exactly what they were. 

Works Cited 

Epstein, Steven. Impure Science: "AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of 

Knowledge." Berkeley: U of California P, f 996. 
Rothstein, William G. American Physicians in the 19th Century: "From 

Sects to Science." Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1982. 
Warner, John Harley. The Therapeutic Perspective: "Medical Practice, 

Knowledge, and Identity in America, 1820-1885." Cambridge, 

MA: Harvard UP, f986. 



The MindS Eye 63 



Contributors 



Abbot Cutter teaches creative writing and literature at Massachusetts College 
of Liberal Arts. He is the author of 1843 Rebecca 1847, a book of narrative 
poetry, and his poems have appeared in several publications, includittg 
Ploughshares, PoilatcXh, BlueSofa Review and the anthology Under One Roof. Pro- 
fessor Cutler is the advisor for the annual publication of student writing, Spires, 
His most recent book of poems. The Dog Isn't Going Anywhere, was published in 
2000 by Mad River Press (Richmond, Massachusetts).. 

Celia Montgomery is a working actress and playwright who lives in New 
York City. Two of her plays. The Small Apartment and Ismene, have been pro- 
duced in Manhattan. She is the female lead in a new independent Tilm, 
UltraChristi, showing in film festivals this winter, and will make her off-Broad- 
way acting debut in Fairytales of the Absurd next June. She graduated front 
Drury High School in North Adams and Skidmore College. The Devil Dog was 
written as a Christmas present for her parents and was inspired by their cocker 
spaniel. Chipper. 

William Montgomery has taught interdisciplinary' studies at Massachusetts 
College of Liberal Arts since 1986. His primary interest is the history of the 
sciences. He has written several articles on the history of evolutionary thought 
and was an associate editor for the first three volumes of The Correspondence of 
Charles Darwin (Cambridge University Press, 1 985-1987). 

Greg Scheckler is an assistant professor at Massachusetts College of Liberal 
Aris. where he leaches visual art, interdisciplinary art and arts management. 
Since 1990, his creative work has been exhibited in 54 shows, primarily in 
tile Midwest. He is presently on the board of the Contemporary Artists Cen- 
ter (North Adams, Massachusetts), where he has recently exhibited an in- 
stallation of mural art combining visual images with text from his own cre- 
ative writing. 

Maynard Seicler has taught sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal 
Arts since 1978. He discussed findings from the research project he writes 
about here at the "Working Class Studies" conference at Youngstown Slate 
University in 1999 and. most recently, at the New Fngland Sociological 
Association spring 2002 meeting at Northeastern University. Professor Seider 
currently serves as president of the MCLA Faculty Association. 

Meera Tamaya is a professor of English at Massachusetts College of Liberal 
Arts, where she teaches courses on Shakespeare and other distinguished 
writers. She is the author of the book Colonial Detection: H. R. P. Keating, as 
well as articles on John Sherwood, Kazuo Ishiguro, Margaret Atwood, Bar- 
bara Pym and Shakespeare. Her mosi recent book is An Interpretation of Ham- 
let Rased on Recent Developments in Cognitive Studies. 



64 The Mind's Eye 



Mind's Eye 

Writer's Guidelines 



While emphasizing articles of scholarly merit, i'he Mind's Eye focuses on a general 
communication of ideas of interest to a liberal arts college. We welcome expository 
essays as well as fiction. We publish twice a year. The deadline for the Fall issue is 
July 15. Deadline for the Spring issue is January 1 5. 

Submissions should adhere to these guidelines: 

1. Submit unpublished manuscripts both on paper and on disk, using either PC or 
MAC platform word-processing programs. Manuscripts should be typed double 
spaced and printed on one side of the paper only. List your name, address, phone 
number and e-mail address, if available, on the cover sheet, and your name at the 
lop ol each page. 

2. We will consider simultaneous submissions under the provision that the author 
notify us of this and contact us immediately if the material is accepted elsewhere. 

3. If you wish your manuscript and disk returned, please enclose a return self- 
addressed envelope. If it is to be mailed off campus, attach sufficient postage. While 
we make every attempt to safeguard your manuscript and disk, we cannot be held 
responsible for their loss. 

4. Use MLA style, with in-text references, as appropriate to the content and 
disciplinary approach of your article (see MLA stylebook for guidelines). 

5. While we will consider articles of unspecified length, preference is given to 
articles of fewer than 20 pages. 

6. We reserve the right to edit for clarity and accuracy 

7. We will consider one-color artwork (e.g.. photographs, line drawings, woodcuts). 

8. Payment will be made in contributor's copies. 



Submit your manuscript 10: 

The Mind's Eye 
Tony Gengarelly, Managing Editor 
Campus Box 9132 
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts 
375 Church Street 
North Adams, MA 01247 
For queries: agengare@mcla, mass.edu